Colombian great Nairo Quintana insisted on Wednesday he was not ready to give up after local media had speculated he would announce his retirement after failing to find a new team for this season.
The 32-year-old left Arkea-Samsic last year after he was stripped of his sixth-placed finish in the 2022 Tour de France following a positive test for a banned pain relief medication.
“While it is true that I don’t have a team, I’m a cyclist who remains available to wear a jersey and to give my best in races,” said Quintana.
He has not raced since his Tour disqualification for taking tramadol, something he denies.
Although not currently considered a doping substance — it will be added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list in 2024 — it is banned by cycling authorities on medical grounds.
“I want to get back to competing, to putting on a race number, to feeling the demands of responding to a team,” added the Colombian.
Quintana was a trailblazer for Colombian and South American cycling.
Although he was not the first Colombian to win a Grand Tour — that was Lucho Herrera at the Vuelta a Espana in 1987 — he won both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta and three times finished on the Tour de France podium.
Since finishing second at his first Tour in 2013, Quintana was widely tipped to be Colombia’s first winner of the Grand Boucle.
Instead he would never better that debut showing and Egan Bernal usurped him in 2019.
Since the 2017 Giro, when he finished second, he has never again managed a Grand Tour podium.
Once the hottest property in cycling, his star has long waned.
His sixth-placed finish at last year’s Tour seemed to signal something of a partial return to form, but that has now been wiped from the record books and he is unlikely to ever ride another Tour.
His first task is to find a new team, but he fears his name is tarnished.
Some say he has been blacklisted by the top level World Tour teams based in Europe, particularly those affiliated to the voluntary Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC), an organization comprising teams and cyclists that operate stricter rules against doping than authorities.
Quintana said the veto was “undeniable” given “the inexplicable wall that has been built between the possibilities of competing and my desire to continue doing so,” complained Quintana.
“I will not give up and will keep on going.”
Quintana said he would travel to Europe to try to “fix this pothole” and find a contract.