Professional athletes are by nature hardcore optimists.
It’s basic sports psychology — no negative thoughts dragging down the athletic performance and dropping the SRM wattage. Their mantra is that everything is fantastic, I’m strong, nothing can stop me, I’m getting faster and stronger every day. (Insert primal roar and chest thump–which is dangerous when your chest is as emaciated as Mr. Froome’s.)
Still, if’ you’re Garmin-Sharp’s Andrew Talansky or BMC’s Tejay van Garderen — riders who plan to win the Tour de France someday — it must be hard to stay totally positive when they look at the meteoric rise of Movistar’s Nairo Quintana.
Developing into a athlete who can win a grand tour can be such a slow, agonizing, incremental process. Patience is a mandatory part of the program. The physical capacities, mental maturity, tactical savvy and leadership qualities required to triumph in the Giro or Tour de France simply take a long, long time to acquire.
But then again, there’s that freakish exception: senõr Quintana. The 23 year old Colombian has exploded up into the ranks of grand tour contenders. On some psychological level it must be a bummer if you’re van Garderen or Talansky. Motivating yes, but also a daunting challenge.
How did he get so insanely good so fast?
Here you are killing yourself year after year with 100% sacrifice trying to get that next 1-2% better and this little guy arrives at the 100th birthday edition of the Tour de France and in his first participation takes 2nd overall, even dropping winner Chris Froome several times in the high mountains.
No matter how many positive affirmations you repeat, no matter how any times you focus just on your own performance, there’s an unavoidable “holy shit” to Quintana’s accomplishments. (Then again, Twisted Spoke supposes you might take a peak at doping in Colombia and raise an eyebrow or two. We’re not making any statement about Quintana in particular just the culture in general.)
After winning the 2013 US Pro Cycling Challenge, van Garderen told Twisted Spoke that his time trialing is good enough to win a tour but that his climbing is still a level below Froome and Quintana. How do you make up that ground when this guy is already flying?
Quintana has plenty of work to do in the next few years on his time trial abilities but at his young age he has plenty of time to hang out in the wind tunnel. As his Movistar boss Eusebio Eusebio said, “He is premature doing these things. At 23 he is doing spectacular things. Clearly he is of high quality. Nairo is privileged physically and he has a head equally as privileged.”
Van Garderen and Talansky are both tremendously gifted and highly focused athletes. Its a job requirement that deep in the recesses of their primal brain they believe they can eventually beat a Froome or Nibali or Quintana.
Still, there must be a few moments when they go, “damn, where did that Quintana come from?”