Nairo Quintana has described his imminent return to the WorldTour in the colours of Movistar as a “victory” after he spent a year on the sidelines following his positive tests for tramadol on the 2022 Tour de France.
“This was another victory,” Quintana told a Movistar press conference in Bogotá on Monday. “I enjoyed it like many of the races we won. I never gave up the fight. We don’t know what the UCI was thinking, but now the goal is to start this new cycle in the best possible way.”
Quintana was stripped of his sixth-place finish at the Tour after analysis of two dried blood samples revealed the presence of the painkiller tramadol and its two main metabolites.
The Colombian did not serve a suspension as his offence was covered by UCI Medical Rules rather than classed as an anti-doping violation. WADA will ban tramadol from 2024 onwards, with athletes facing possible suspensions of up to four years for its use in competition.
Quintana was unable to find a team for 2023 after Arkéa-Samsic dispensed with his services, while his disqualification from last year’s Tour was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. His lone competitive outing in 2023 came at the Colombian National Championships in February where he placed third behind Esteban Chaves.
Despite speculation that his retirement was imminent, the 33-year-old insisted that he intended to return to the peloton, and on Saturday it was announced that he would return to Movistar, where he spent the first eight years of his career. On Monday, Quintana made his first public appearance since the announcement.
“I’m dreaming again,” Quintana said, according to Marca. “I believed, but I believe even more now that I can do beautiful things and contribute to the team. I want to keep representing the brand with the best values – the values of the brand and of Nairo Quintana.”
During his first spell at Movistar, Quintana became Colombia’s most successful rider on the world stage, winning the 2014 Giro d’Italia and 2016 Vuelta a España, and placing on the podium of the Tour de France in 2013, 2015, and 2016.
Quintana left the team at the end of 2019 after enduring an uneasy leadership triumvirate with Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa. However, he insisted that he had remained on good terms with manager Eusebio Unzúe.
“We always missed one another,” Quintana said. “We were united, but nobody took the first step. I went to meet Eusebio, to ask him how he was doing, and after…