By Mark Elkington
MADRID, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Missing out on the Tour de France could be considered a setback for one of cycling's hottest prospects but Nairo Quintana sees the logic in Movistar's decision to have him lead the team's assault on the Giro d'Italia.
The 23-year-old Colombian finished second behind Chris Froome of Britain in last year's Tour, scooping the white and polka-dot jerseys for the top young rider and best climber.
He was singled out as one of the main obstacles to Froome's bid to defend his title with Team Sky in 2014 but will instead cut his teeth as a team leader for the first time in Italy.
Quintana told Reuters TV on Friday that Movistar general manager Eusebio Unzue had convinced him riding the Giro would be an instructive experience and would hone his leadership skills.
"When he told me in the end I was to do the Giro it didn't bother me because it is the perfect style of race for me," Quintana said.
"I feel ready (to be a leader). We are surrounded by some very good colleagues."
About to become a father for the first time, Quintana will be joined by his younger brother Dayer at Movistar this season and will race alongside his more experienced co-leader, Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, in the Tour of Spain.
"He (Nairo) is a very young rider and to go on the Tour this year would be added pressure for him," Valverde, the 2009 Tour of Spain winner, said.
"I would like to be younger and to have done the Giro but now I am of an age where I am going to try and fight to win the Tour," the 33-year-old added.
"What the bosses have thought best is to remove some of the pressure (on Quintana) because he has many years in front of him to go and win the Tour.
"I think people are making too much of it, more of a controversy than there really is."
Unzue said Movistar could not ask for a better leader for their 2014 Tour de France bid.
"Evaluating Alejandro, looking back at what he has done in the past, I think at the very least it allows Movistar to go to the Tour with a worthy leader," Unzue said.
"I don't know if he is able to win the Tour but he is capable of fighting to be on the podium, for sure."
The Giro will be held from May 9 to June 1 and the Tour de France is from July 5-27. (Editing by Ed Osmond)