Nairo Quintana plans to target the 2015 Tour de France after celebrating victory in the Giro d’Italia.
The 24-year-old Colombian, second to Chris Froome in last year’s Tour, completed the final stage of the Giro into Trieste without incident as Giant-Shimano’s Luka Mezgec sprinted to victory up ahead while fourth place was enough for FDJ’s Nacer Bouhanni to retain the points leaders’ red jersey.
Quintana became the youngest Giro winner since Damiano Cunego took pink aged 22 in 2004, and the Movistar rider now has grand ambitions for the future.
While he has no plans to ride this year’s Tour having put all his focus on the Giro, he plans to return to France next summer and confirmed before the start of the stage that he has made a Tour victory his new priority.
“My next goal will be to win the Tour de France one day,” he said.
By the end of the stage, such thoughts were on hold, at least for now, as Quintana basked in his success.
“It’s very difficult to explain how much happiness is inside of me,” he said. “This is one of the happiest days of my life. Thank you to my family, thank you to my team and to all the Colombians.”
Quintana’s victory capped a Colombian-dominated finish to a race which had been all Australia in its opening week.
Quintana won by two minutes and 58 seconds from fellow Colombian Rigoberto Uran - the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider who was also second last year when racing for Team Sky.
Quintana doubled up as the winner of the young rider’s jersey ahead of the impressive Italian Fabio Aru of Astana, third overall, while another Colombian, Julian Arredondo of Trek Factory, took the blue jersey for the mountains classification ahead of Team Sky’s Italian rider Dario Cataldo - Cataldo’s performances a rare bright spot for Sky in a disappointing Giro in which a makeshift squad was unable to make much headway.
Indeed, the only other significant source of encouragement for Sky came from yet another Colombian, the 20-year-old Sebastian Henao who turned in some impressive performances over the three weeks to suggest he has a bright future ahead of him.
The final stage was animated by a few attacks on the streets of Trieste, with Svein Tuft - winner of the opening stage for Orica GreenEdge - and Lars Bak heading up the road with 44km to go before being joined by Stefano Pirazzi, Mikel Landa and Carlos Quintero, but they were caught soon enough as the sprint trains set up.
As they came towards the line Sebastian Chavanel tried to set up FDJ team-mate Bouhanni but the Frenchman’s line was blocked as his rival for red Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory) nosed in front alongside Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Sharp.
However, Mezgec came up along the barriers and pipped them all for the stage victory.