Quintana defends his title against a powerful Ineos

The Colombian returns to competition after his knee surgery, while the British team will line up Thomas and Geoghegan Hart.


Colombian Nairo Quintana (Arkea Samsic), winner of the 2014 Giro and 2016 Vuelta, opens the season from this Friday until Sunday in the Tour of the Maritime Alps, a French event that brings together an Ineos that presents a great potential, with Geraint Thomas and 2020 Giro winner Tao Geoghegan Hart.

Quintana returns after undergoing surgeries on both knees, motivated and ready to start the road to the Tour de France, the great goal of the year. The 31-year-old from Boyacá will defend the number 1 number against tall rivals who will fight in three demanding mountain stages.

Quintana is not presented as a favorite, a role that must be played by the dominating team so far, Ineos Grenadier, which has just collected the laurels with Iván Ramiro Sosa in the Tour de La Provence. Geraint Thomas, winner of the 2018 Tour and Tao Geoghegan Hart, who opens the season, will not be the only references, since the British squad will stage the Russian Pavel Sivakov, the Ecuadorian Jhonatan Narváez and the 21-year-old debutante Thomas Pidcock, one of the jewels of the future.

In the fight for the general there will be more contenders, such as the Danish Jakob Fuglsang, who will carry the stripes of Astana with the Spanish Gorka Izagirre. The French Thibaut Pinot and David Gaudu (Groupama) and the Olympic champion, the Belgian Greg Van Avermaet, will be other attractions, as well as Bauke Mollema and the Italian climber Giulio Ciccone, who can be the protagonist among so many mountains.

Burgos-BH and Kern Pharma will be the representative teams of Spanish cycling, both with ambition in a high-class event for their participation. In addition, David de la Cruz will co-lead UAE Emirates and Jesús Herrada in Cofidis.

The route offers hardly any respite in the three days. Already in the first stage the peloton will climb Col de Gourdon three times, with a high finish after 14 kilometers at 3.9 percent. The second stage has a very sharp end, steep with 1.2 km at 9.8 percent, short difficulty, but it arrives after 168 kilometers up and down. The final stage will be for the men of the general, a short day ending in Blausasc 134.7 kms with 3 first-class passes and a non-scoring difficulty near the finish line, Col de Nice (2.5 kms at 4.7 per cent) .

Photos from as.com
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