Specialist climber Nairo Quintana said 2013 Tour de France champion Chris Froome is behind his main rivals in the race for this year’s victory.

Most observers have been talking about the “fantastic four” with reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali and Giro d’Italia winner Alberto Contador making up the quartet.

And despite Froome winning the Tour build-up Criterium du Dauphine last month and also triumphing at the Vuelta a Andalucia in February, Quintana does not consider him to be at the same level as Nibali and Contador.

“I think (Nibali) and Contador are the favourites. In any case they’re my most dangerous rivals,” said Quintana on Friday, on the eve of the Grand Depart.

“Alberto is aiming for the Giro-Tour double and I think he can do it. As for Chris Froome he’s a little bit behind but I’m not ruling him out.

“Of course I’m riding to win, I’ve prepared well as always.

“I like the course, there are some tough stages but I’ve trained hard to get over them. It should be a great Tour de France.”

With just one individual timetrial — Saturday’s opening stage — at just 13.8km and six summit finishes, many people believe this year’s course is tailormade for Quintana to succeed.

The 25-year-old Colombian is the smallest and slightest of the four main contenders and the weakest in races against the clock, but considered by many to be the best climber.

Yet he’s not counting his chickens just yet.

“Yes, I’m nervous. I’m the leader in a very strong team which expects a lot from me,” he added.

“If everything goes well we’ll ride for the yellow jersey. That’s how I feel, I’m determined to win.

“They (his Movistar team) have faith in me and the proof is that a rider of the calibre of (Alejandro) Valverde is aiming to help me win the Tour de France.”

Two years ago they were joint leaders when debutant Quintana finished second overall to Froome and Valverde could manage only eighth, before taking a career-high fourth place last year when Quintana missed the Tour to ride the Giro instead, which he won. – Agence France-Presse

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