Rider profiles: Philippe Gilbert, Rui Costa and Nairo Quintana

In 2013 I’ll be following the progress of three climbers. The first is a puncheur and current World Champion Philippe Gilbert, the second – Rui Costa – is something of a hybrid who will be looking to continue the growth he’s demonstrated over the last couple of seasons, while the third is Nairo Quintana, a young, diminutive Colombian who could have a breakthrough season in 2013.

Philippe Gilbert (BMC)


Image courtesy of BMC

Image courtesy of BMC

Age: 30.

Nationality: Belgian.

Role: Puncheur.

2012 WorldTour ranking: 46th, 112 pts.

2012 highlights:

  • Won the Road World Championships road race, 2nd in the trade team time trial.
  • Two stage wins at the Vuelta a España.
  • 3rd at Flèche Wallonne.

Why I’m following him:

Philippe Gilbert underwhelmed in the spring Classics in 2012 after completing an extraordinary Ardennes triple the previous year. He managed to turn things around at the last with a couple of stage victories at the Vuelta before taking a richly deserved rainbow jersey. Whilst undoubtedly a remarkable achievement, he peaked too late in the season and seemed to struggle to adapt to life at BMC. He was hampered by tooth problems early on, though will hopefully have no such excuses in 2013.

I am following him quite simply because he is one of the greatest – and most exciting riders – of the current generation. This season he has a great chance to prove that his 2011 season was no fluke – and the rainbow curse is no more than a myth. “My goals are always the same,” the 30-year old has said. “Firstly, the spring Classics, especially the Ardennes Classics.” Gilbert started training for the new season way back at the start of November and if his hard work transforms itself into results he will go down as one of the all-time greats.

Rui Costa (Movistar)

Image courtesy of Movistar

Age: 26.

Nationality: Portuguese.

Role: Puncheur/climber.

2012 WorldTour ranking: 10th, 320 pts.

2012 highlights:

  • 1st overall at Tour de Suisse, one stage win.
  • 2nd at GP Ouest-France and Trofeo Deià.
  • 3rd overall at Tour de Romandie.
  • 3rd at Grand Prix de Québec.

Why I’m following him:

Tenth place in the WorldTour rankings is an extraordinary achievement from a rider who has emerged out of nothing in the last couple of seasons. Riding himself into fans’ consciousness with a stage win at the Tour de France and a win in the GP de Montréal in 2011, Rui Costa continued to show his talent during a successful 2012 – the highlight of which was an excellent win at the difficult stage race Tour de Suisse, before finishing inside the top 20 at the Tour de France. His previous best finish was 73rd in 2010.

The only other Portuguese rider ranked in the 2012 WorldTour was RadioShack-Nissan’s Thiago Machado in 57th place, so for Rui Costa to perform so highly is no mean feat. This season could be a crucially important one for him, and it will be interesting to see whether his exponential development continues or he stagnates. He is an exciting rider, capable on high mountains and small, punchy climbs. Hopefully more victories are on the way.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar)

Nairo Quintana Movistar 2013

Image courtesy of Movistar

Age: 22.

Nationality: Colombian.

Role: Climber.

2012 WorldTour ranking: 176th, 6 pts.

2012 highlights:

  • 1st overall at Vuelta a Murcia, one stage win.
  • 1st overall at Route du Sud, one stage win.
  • Won Giro dell’Emilia.
  • Won one stage at Critérium du Dauphiné.

Why I’m following him:

Nairo Quintana’s chiselled face belies his actual age. The Colombian is only 23 this year, and won the Tour de l’Avenir (effectively the young riders’ Tour de France) in 2010. The son of a poor peasant family from Boyacá in Colombia, Quintana’s is an incredible tale, and he is part of the great Colombian cycling revival currently in progress. He enjoyed an enormously successful 2012, including doing an invaluable job in marshalling teammate Alejandro Valverde to second place at the Vuelta a España.

Still so young, Quintana will surely continue to improve. 2013 should be his best year yet, and he is undoubtedly one to watch.

Websites: Philippe Gilbert, Rui Costa

Twitter: @Phil_Gilbert1@RuiCostaCyclist