Ahead of the Giro d'Italia start in Ireland, Movistar's manager Eusebio Unzue compared Nairo Quintana to five-times Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault.
A curious comparison considering Quintana's quiet manner alongside Hinault's outsized personality but they share at least one characteristic – Defiance.
On Thursday morning, as the team managers gathered on Via Battistini to discuss the fall-out and consequences of the controversies on stage 16, where Quintana and others attacked on the descent from the Stelvio pass to take over Rigoberto Uran's overall lead, the Colombian – dressed all in pink – signed in for his first day as leader of the Italian grand tour.
There has been talk about other riders not wanting to shake the Movistar climber's hand on the start, because some think Quintana knowingly took advantage of the confusion on the Stelvio and attacked while other general classification rivals thought the race had been temporary neutralised.
The Colombian extended his lead to a minute and a half on the descent and stretched it to 2:30 on the final climb of the day to Val Martello, with his rivals desperately tried to limit their time loss.
"They are riders who can’t accept defeat. Many came to shake my hand, from the same teams who are arguing, because they know what really happened," Quintana said. "The riders on those teams came to shake my hands, and their directeurs sportifs continue to make a polemic when they don’t know what really happened."
Unzue defended his team and Quintana's actions during the impromptu managers' front-yard meeting but despite his protests, the AIGCP – the teams' association – requested the organisers to dock 55 seconds from the race leader.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) refused, however, and Quintana expressed regret that it had come to that at his post-stage press conference.
"Really, I don’t know if what they are saying is a joke," he said. "It makes me laugh, because in reality everyone present and everyone who watches on TV knows what really happened. It’s like I went down the Stelvio in a car or on a motorbike. I came down in a bike on the same roads everyone else came down and then I climbed well afterwards.
"If I’d come down in a car, or taken a short cut and they wanted to take two minutes off me, then I’d agree with that, but I did the same route as everyone else and I won. I don’t know why they would want to take time off me."
Quintana had no difficulties defending his pink jersey on stage 17 to Vittorio Veneto and he stays 1:41 in front of Uran (Omega Pharma – QuickStep) and 3:21 ahead of third placed Cadel Evans (BMC) in the GC.
And the expert climber looks set to keep hold of the lead as the upcoming stages are very much suited to him. Two tough mountain stages as well as a mountain time trial make him favourite but considering what has gone before, alliances might be forming against him.
Quintana, however, seemed unconcerned with any such notions claiming that he has many allies in the peloton.
"I have confidence in my team. There are still nine of us, in perfect shape," Quintana said. "And I have good friends in the peloton who can be my allies. I get on well with people."
The diminutive Colombian rejected the idea that he now needs to justify his position as race leader and the holder of the maglia rosa by producing something special at Fifugio Panarotta, Cima Grappa and the Zoncolan.
"I think I have already shown that I have the means to be where I am," he said. "Perhaps if I have a good day, I’ll continue to show myself, but I’m not a rider who is riding at the limit to be where I am. I’m not dragging myself along the road!"
The confusion and unclear communication by the organisers on stage 16 have already had huge consequences for the Giro and the general classification and the discussions will no doubt continue.
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