In somewhat surprising news that really shouldn’t be surprising at all, Nairo Quintana is heading back to Movistar on a one-year (for now) contract.
Of all the names that have been tenuously attached to X team over the past few months, this is one that seemed to get buried slightly by bigger drama, but in reality, Quintana’s search for a signature has been ongoing for a whole year.
The 33-year-old has been stranded in the purgatory between a professional road career and a future of gravel and/or building his hospitality empire since last October, ever since he parted ways with Arkéa Samsic in the fall-out following his disqualification from the 2022 Tour de France where he twice tested positive for Tramadol.
It should be noted that though Tramadol is banned in competition by the UCI, it was only ‘monitored’ by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). However, that is set to change on 1st January, 2024 as WADA adds the narcotic to the ‘prohibited in-competition’ list, so anyone testing positive for Tramadol at a race after that date will be subject to a multi-year suspension.
Since his unhappy departure from Arkéa-Samsic, Quintana has intermittently been linked to Bahrain Victorious, Lidl-Trek and Soudal Quick-Step, but after a flurry of rumours, it went a little quiet around the Colombian, until Saturday morning when Spanish media and then Team Movistar began drip-feeding the news of their eighth signing.
Movistar and Quintana enjoyed eight good years together from 2012, with 40 victories for the Colombian including 15 GC wins, the 2014 Giro d’Italia and 2016 Vuelta a España titles, as well as three podium finishes at the Tour de France and seven Grand Tour stage wins.
Quintana left Movistar at the end of 2019 after slipping down the pecking order at the historic Spanish team, choosing instead the more dedicated services of the then-ProTeam Arkéa. He was at least partially responsible for the French team’s promotion to WorldTour at the end of 2022, which they managed in spite of his best Tour performance since 2016 being wiped from the tally. Quintana had signed a contract extension, but that was scrapped last October, and he has been searching for a team ever since.
“It’s super emotional for me to be back home. It’s been such a tough year,” Quintana said in the team’s release. “The sleepless nights, so many days of sacrifice, going on my bike and trying to keep pushing, under the rain or the scorching sun. But it was all worth it. I won’t waste this opportunity.
“I know the values of the team, the values of sport. I will give my everything to do things right, and I want to help the team achieve the best results. I’m so incredibly thankful to the Movistar Team, Telefónica, the squad, the whole squad, for this great opportunity, which I’ve been waiting for for so long. With all my heart and my legs, I’ll do my best to make them, as well as the fans, happy and proud. I hope this era now starting will be a really successful one for the team.”
Where this puts Quintana and his new (old) teammate Enric Mas in the pecking order for next year remains to be seen, but given the younger rider’s recent record against the new Tour de France top dogs – and, let’s face it, French tarmac – perhaps he’d welcome a lower-pressure return to his home Grand Tour, leaving Quintana to take on La Grande Boucle …
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