Colombian climb specialist Nairo Quintana says the absence of his old foe Chris Froome in the 2019 Tour de France gives him a chance for victory in what is expected to be an open, exciting race.
Quintana has played second fiddle to four-time winner Froome over recent Tour de Frances as the Briton beat him with superior time-trialling and strength in numbers in climbs, but the Ineos captain is out injured this year after a serious crash last month.
"Anything can happen without Froome racing," the 29-year-old Colombian told a press conference at his Movistar team's plush residence outside Brussels.
"It's a bit special, more open, it'll be a much different Tour than usual," said Quintana, who enjoyed a friendly rivalry with Froome despite finishing on the podium behind him three times.
Quintana, flanked by his co-leader Mikel Landa and veteran and world champion Alejandro Valverde, said this year's course suited his pure climbing skills.
"We did a very intense recon and we needed to do that, it's crucial.
"It's an advantage for me going over 2000m altitude several times, I've been training at altitude for years," said the man from the Andes.
Yates Attacks A Danger
Quintana named British rider Adam Yates and Danish Astana captain, the on-form Jakob Fuglsang, as two of his main rivals on the tour.
"Of course there are the Ineos guys (defending champion Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal), but we will have to keep an eye on Fuglsang, he's had some very good results lately."
"And Yates can launch his sudden attacks, but there are loads of guys who will fancy their chances without Froome around," said Quintana.
Movistar team director Eusebio Unzue insisted that having two team leaders did not hinder their chances of success.
"Nairo's form is unquestionable," said Unzue. "It won't be a hindrance at all, it simply gives us a second option."
Unzue also said his team, built around climbers, would take no risks in trying to keep up in the time-trials and admitted he would be comfortable losing a little time.
Former Team Sky man Landa also earmarked his former teammate Thomas to do well.
"Yes, it will be more open without Froome but they have the champion Thomas and Bernal. Vincenzo Nibali raced the Giro, but he can make an impact too," said Landa.
"Let's see if Bernal can confirm, he's one of the favourites with the team he has a round him," said Landa, who has himself long been tipped for a shot at the Tour leader's yellow jersey.
The Tour embarks with two stages starting in Brussels this weekend.