Return of the pure climber: will 2014 be the year of the mountain men?

Joaquim Rodriguez and Sergio Henao in line for Tour de France starts

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) may have set the tone for the summer, as the pure climbers seek to excel at the Grand Tours this season.

Though developing into a well-rounded rider, tactically astute on flat stages, it was when the roads headed skyward at the Giro d’Italia that Quintana came to the fore. 

Nairo Quintana cuts through the crowds on the Cima Grappa on his way to Giro d’Italia victory (pic: Sirotti)

Now, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) will make his return from injury in time for the Tour de France, while Sergio Henao (Team Sky) could well join him on the Leeds start line after Team Sky announced his return to competition.

While the pre-race favourites – Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, are men who can time trial as well as climb – the men of the mountains have had their say in cycling’s biggest race before.

But with Marco Pantani’s 1998 victory arguably the last Tour triumph for a pure climber, 10 years after the triumph of mountain goat, Pedro Delgado, a victory for those who come alive on vertiginous gradients seems overdue.

With Quintana having shownthe way at the Giro, which climbers will be looking to make their mark at the 2014 Tour – and what will they face in order to do so?

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