Vuelta a España leader Nairo Quintana says that he "gave it all he had" up the finishing Col d'Aubisque climb on Saturday to try to dislodge Team Sky's Chris Froome and gain more time ahead of next week's time trial.
Team Movistar's Colombian in the red jersey attacked Froome, today wearing the white combination jersey, around five times up the 16.5km climb closing out the queen stage. Nothing worked.
"I'm happy and satisfied, I gave it all I had," said Quintana in his usual softly spoken Spanish. "[Froome] is very strong."
Froome sat isolated in a lead group of around 12 riders when Quintana first punched with 9km to race. Froome lost some ground, but regained on his rival. Quintana went several times again, with around five, three and two kilometres to race. He even pushed one last time to the line, but Froome stuck to his wheel.
They both finished 1-47 behind stage winner Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo). Quintana still maintains 54 seconds over Froome in second place overall. Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) lost time, but remains third overall at 2-01. His teammate Simon Yates attacked and moved to fourth from seventh at 2-17.
"I'm not desperate, but my body feels good and I'm trying to take time where possible," added Quintana. "But I must also be very careful that I don't go out too soon and that I manage my attacks well."
The Vuelta a España faces another summit finish on Sunday to the Aramón Formigal ski resort. Quintana will want to add to his 54-second lead with the 37-kilometre time trial on the menu in Calpe on Friday.
Last week, Quintana said, "I'm going to need three minutes. We have to keep doing what we've been doing, to distance him even more."
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