Nairo Quintana has dismissed rumors of his retirement, announcing on Wednesday his determination to continue his career in an emotional speech in Bogota.
Speculation surrounding the Colombian’s future has swirled this week after he himself called a press conference in the Colombian capital on Wednesday morning.
However, despite various major news outlets reporting that Quintana would announce his retirement, he instead came out with an impassioned statement of his desire to continue at the highest level.
“I don’t give up,” Quintana said, noting that the history of Colombian cycling is marked by ‘fighters’.
“I’m going to keep battling to continue – to continue on the bike until my body and mind give way.
“I want to return to competition, pin a number on, feel the pain in the legs but also the satisfaction of victory and of giving the best of myself until the line. I want this, I need this, because competition is a part of myself.”
Quintana, a former winner of the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, finds himself without a team after testing positive for banned painkiller Tramadol at last year’s Tour de France, which saw him stripped of his sixth-place finish from the race.
Although it was not technically a doping offense – tramadol is banned under the UCI’s medical rules until the World Anti-Doping Agency bans its use from 2024 – Quintana was let go by his Arkéa-Samsic team and has struggled to find a new home for 2023 .
Throughout the off-season, the 32-year-old insisted, though vaguely, that he’d be part of the world’s biggest races this year, but nothing has materialized. When he called the press conference, it was widely anticipated he would announce the end of his career, and a huge length of media duly packed in.
However, there was no real news – only an insistence from Quintana that he wants to carry on, without any clear option to do so.
“I don’t have a team, but I’m a rider who’s still available to put on a jersey and give his best on the road,” he said.
Quintana reiterated his desire to carry on racing at ‘the highest level’, for which reason he has turned down approaches from third-division teams on the Colombian circuit, where his compatriot Miguel Ángel López has found refuge after his dismissal from Astana. Quintana is hoping to return to WorldTour level, and if that’s not possible, then to find a second-division ProTeam who’d have wildcard invitations to major races.
“I appreciate the Colombian teams for reaching out a hand, but I’m preparing to carry on representing my country in the biggest races in the world,” he said.
“I’m available to be contracted by a team of the highest category, and that’s what I’m training for.”
Quintana’s determination appeared undimmed despite finding himself unemployed on the brink of February. 11 of the 18 WorldTour teams are already at the maximum 30-rider limit, while others have already closed their budgets, finalized their rosters, and started racing.
His path to the ProTeam ranks, where Arkéa-Samsic were when he joined the French squad in 2020, appears complicated by the fact that Tramadol has been outlawed for years by the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC).
The MPCC is an organization that teams are gently encouraged to join by the all-powerful ASO, who run and hand out invitations for the Tour de France and other major races. Links with the Corratec team appear to have been stifled by that barrier already.
“I’m still talking, still building bridges,” said Quintana, who intends to travel to Europe in February to intensify his search.
“I’m going to go to Europe and sit down with the different teams, talk to them, talk to my manager, and get out of this rough patch. I hope to continue triumphing in the biggest races in the world.”