Astana emerge as potential destination for Quintana, as Ag2r Citroën deny interest

Turns out Quintana's Arkéa-Samsic contract extension hadn't been signed despite being announced.

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In the aftermath of Nairo Quintana’s departure from Arkéa-Samsic following his Tramadol double positive, Astana-Qazaqstan have emerged as a potential destination.

An extension to the Colombian’s stint at Arkéa-Samsic was announced in the days before his Tour de France Tramadol positives came to light, but L’Équipe reports that nothing was officially signed between the rider and the team, easily allowing both parties to subsequently go their separate ways.

The 32-year-old is therefore a free agent, and the French newspaper also reports that the two frontrunners for his signature are Astana-Qazaqstan and Ag2r Citroën, although the latter have denied any contact with the rider or his agent.

“Contrary to an information released in different medias, Ag2r Citroën has never had any contact with Nairo Quintana or his agent and is not interested by his recruitment,” the team said in a very clear statement.

Having spent three years with a ProTeam squad, a move to Astana would see Quintana race for a WorldTour outfit once again.

In his announcement that he would be leaving Arkéa-Samsic, Quintana reiterated his claim that he has “never used [Tramadol] in his career” and his case is still being considered by the court of Arbitration for Sport.

Since the news of his departure from the French team broke, rumours started circling that another Francophone outfit was interested in his signature, with Ag2r Citroën now ruling themselves out of that pool of potential suitors. Astana-Qazaqstan would present a good fit, given their propensity for targeting Grand Tours with climbers at the helm.

Astana still have space in their squad for next year, while Arkéa-Samsic currently only have 15 riders signed for next year and Quintana’s departure frees up even more budget to play with.

Quintana aside, Mark Cavendish is still the most prominent free agent on the market, but there is no word yet as to whether Arkéa-Samsic could be interested. The revamped B&B Hotels squad, with Carrefour coming in as a major headline sponsor, are still the frontrunners for the British sprinter’s signature, which could also potentially house Quintana. In light of the Colombian’s departure from Arkéa-Samsic, could the team make a swoop from the Manxman since they are now in need of a new star rider? Especially given the lack of available big names still without a contract.

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