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Juan Antonio Flecha: 'Quintana is the man to beat at the Giro'

Josh Cunningham
25 Apr 2017

Eurosport expert Flecha talks to Cyclist about his Giro favourite, the Giro-Tour double, and Geraint Thomas

A former winner of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and alumni of Fassa-Bortolo, Rabobank, Team Sky and Vacansoleil, Juan Antonia Flecha retired from pro cycling in 2013. 

Among other things he is now one of the resident experts at Eurosport and covering the Giro d'Italia, the start of which is now less than two weeks away.

'I’d say that Nairo Quintana is the favourite to win the Giro,' says Flecha. 'He recently won the most recent Grand Tour - the Vuelta a Espana - and is looking very strong.

'He’s been winning a lot of races this year too [Volta Valenciana, Tirreno-Adriatico], so everything looks to be on track for him and for Movistar. He’s the man to beat.'

However, if he is to win in Milan, the Colombian will face stiff competition from the likes of Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), and potentially even Team Sky's Geraint Thomas.

'Geraint Thomas has developed into much more of a leadership role at Team Sky,' says Flecha, a former teammate of the Welshman.

'Look at the Tour of the Alps and Tirreno-Adriatico recently. He’s one of the best riders riders in the world, and I would say the best domestique out there.

'Now he’s going to be up there leading the team in a Grand Tour, and there’s some big expectations surrounding him.'

Thomas will indeed be leading the team at the Giro - the first time that he will have done so at a three week Grand Tour - alongside Mikel Landa, who finished third at the Giro in 2015. 

'I don’t know what relationship Thomas and Landa have,' Flecha says of the pair when asked how he thinks they will manage their joint-leadership.

'I know G very well, but I don’t know Landa very well, but looking at how its been in the team between them up until now, it looks alright. They raced in the Tour of the Alps and come to the finish line together [on stage three, which Thomas won], and there doesn’t seem to be any issues with that.

'At the 2015 Giro some people speculated there was some issues between Aru and Landa when Landa was at Astana,' Flecha continues, 'but we don’t really know the reasons, because its very internal.'

The former pro added, 'It’s not the first time that two leaders have shared a leadership. In the end they’re big teams, big directors, big managers, and its their duty, if there’s an issue, to deal with that and solve it.

'It’s a professional world and it's a professional sport so personally I don’t expect it [problems].'

But if Flecha has Quintana down to win the Giro, ahead of the likes of Landa, Thomas, Nibali et al, then how does he see the possible attempt of a Giro-Tour double sitting for the potential winner - whoever that may be?

'One or two riders have tried to win both [Giro and Tour] in the same year recently - with Alberto Contador especially, and now we see it with Quintana, Nibali.'

'There are riders that come out of the Giro very happy and then they want to go to the Tour and do the same thing,' Flecha explains.

'They want to try it - and sure why not? But they’ve found that it's hard after celebrating a Giro win to then be on time [fitness-wise] for the Tour de France.

'I’d say that almost everyone who wins the Giro will want to give it a try at the Tour as well. We saw it with Nibali last year, but in the end after the Giro his performance wasn’t very good at the Tour.

'It depends a lot on the race that year, because it had been such a fast Giro that year. But you can never predict these things in advance.'

Watch the Giro d’Italia exclusively LIVE on Eurosport with daily evening highlights on Quest

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