Vuelta a España overall leader Nairo Quintana says that he did not feel under pressure from Chris Froome on the race's final day in the mountains
- Photos by Graham Watson
Quintana locked in his race lead ahead of the final flat day on Sunday in Madrid. When he finishes, he will be able to add the Vuelta crown to his Giro d’Italia title from 2014.
Froome tried several times on the 21-kilometre Aitana climb, but the small 26-year-old Colombian in the red leader’s jersey marked him every time.
“I had no problem following Froome,” Quintana said. “He started to attack very early. That’s normal, and we were very attentive.
“My team was always very concentrated and we could keep everything under control all the time. Finally, on the climb, I felt very good and I had no trouble countering Froome’s surges.”
Even Froome will admit that he lacks the power surges he had when he won his third Tour de France this July. Then, Quintana finished third overall after closing second to Froome in the other two editions.
Frenchman Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) won from an escape. Further down the road, the favourites played for the placings. Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) attacked and rode free to move into third overall.
Froome tried at 3.7 kilometres remaining, 3.1 and later again, but it came to nothing. To underline his dominance, Quintana shot free ahead of Froome to close the stage. Froome clapped his hands to applaud his rival’s ride when he crossed the line seconds later.
“I don’t know if he’d be upset by that, he’s done it before, but it doesn’t matter,” Quintana added.
“He’s a great rider, and his team was at a very good level, and they always made troubles for me. He did a great time trial, and he suffered to try to win this Vuelta.”
Quintana saved his season after a slightly disappointing Tour where he failed to challenge Froome and struggled to take third overall. The overall victory will largely be thanks to a risky early attack only six kilometres into last Sunday’s stage that eventually netted him 2-43 minutes on Froome.
“I believed in my team, and they made everything easy for me. They brought me all the way to here, and I owe them everything,” Quintana said.
“I dedicated this to José Joaquín Rojas. He suffered an ugly crash [today], and this will help him along.”