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Is this finally the year of Nairo Quintana? After all the podiums, the switch to Team Arkéa-Samsic may have been the boost needed for the Colombian to climb his way to a Tour de France victory.
The Tour de la Provence this weekend, racing midway up the Mont Ventoux, gave us plenty of evidence that 2020 could be the best Quintana vintage yet. He rode clear on the climb and never looked back, time trialing his way to the line at the Chalet Reynard to ensure victory and enough time to take the lead from Aleksandr Vlasov for the eventual overall win Sunday.
Egan Bernal became the first Colombian to win the Tour de France this summer but it was Nairo Quintana who gave the nation its first Giro d'Italia win and overthrew Chris Froome in the 2016 Vuelta a España for the overall win.
In the Tour de France, he finished second twice, won stages, but never managed to take home the blue winner's vase. In 2016, was the last time he stood on the podium, finishing third overall. The time had come to change, he left Spain's super-team Movistar behind and joined second tier French team Arkéa-Samsic for 2020. Reportedly, he will now even base himself in Brittany during the racing season. The move had left many scratching their heads, but Quintana went a long way to erasing those doubts over the race's four days.
Arkéa-Samsic Hot Streak
Team Arkéa-Samsic already is on a hot streak thanks to Nacer Bouhanni. He too switched teams after many years stalled in Cofidis. With Arkéa, he won for the first time in 17 months at the Saudi Tour. Then again in stage one of Provence, he shot from the final corner and blasted by Jakub Mareczko (CCC Team) to win.
Honorable mentions needed to be given. Russian Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana), just 23, soloed away to stage two victory and reminded everyone who won the 2018 Baby Giro d'Italia. He nearly clawed back enough time, but Quintana's experience kept him at bay.
Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) climbed with the stars both days, placed eighth overall, and showed form that surprised the American himself as he builds for the Tour later in the season. Another American, Ian Garrison (Deceuninck-Quick Step) made his mark the final day escaping with eventual stage winner Owain Doull. The 21-year-old did not get the win, but a massive confidence boost behind Doull, who took the first win of what's probably to be many to come for Ineos in 2020.