5. Tour de France 2013: stage 20
A 23-year-old Quintana had already won overall titles at the Tour of the Basque Country and Volta a Catalunya during his breakthrough 2013 season, but it was at that year’s Tour de France where he really confirmed just what a prodigy he was — particularly on the penultimate stage, a mountain-top finish at Annecy-Semnoz.
Having already ridden away from the rest of the peloton with Joaquim Rodriguez and yellow jersey Chris Froome earlier on the climb, Quintana eased away from them in the final kilometre in his trademark unhurried style, dropping them and soloing to victory.
It was a ride that at once sealed a second-place on GC at what was his debut Tour, proved he could maintain his form deep into the back end of a Grand Tour, and had the ability to out-climb even the great Chris Froome.
4. Tour de France 2019: stage 18
Even in the years since 2017, during which time he has ceased to be the elite Grand Tour contender he once was, Quintana has still been able to pull the occasional sensational climbing performance out of the bag.
Best of all was his ride to win the first Alpine stage of the 2019 Tour de France. Starting the day far down on GC having lost time in the Pyrenees, Quintana was allowed to get into an early break, and capitalised on the opportunity magnificently, riding away from the rest halfway up the famous Col du Galibier, then descending to the finish at Valloire to win by over 1-30 ahead of Romain Bardet in second-place.
The result catapulted him back up to seventh on GC, and although he wasn’t able to move higher in the following stages, this ride alone was a great showcase for his resilient attitude and ability to bounce back.
3. Tirreno-Adriatico 2015: stage five
Riders who come from outside of cycling’s traditional European heartlands can sometimes be unfairly stereotyped as wilting in tough weather conditions, but no-one could accuse Quintana of doing so when he battled through a blizzard to win the queen stage of the 2015 Tirreno-Adriatico.
As someone from a high-altitude (and, therefore, often cold climate) area in Colombia, Quintana proved to be far more robust when the snow started falling than the likes of Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali, who could not respond when he shot up the road on the slopes of the Monte Terminillo.
There are few sights in cycling more stirring than a rider emerging from the fog of a horrendous day to take victory at the top of a mountain, and the fact the result also set Quintana up for overall victory made it extra special.
2. Vuelta a España 2016: overall victory
As a pure climber with no sprint finish, a weak time trial and no interest in any of the Classics, it really is a remarkable achievement that Quintana has managed to reach a half-century of wins.
It’s his prolific record in winning the overall titles of stage races that is largely responsible for him accumulating such a total — 19 of those 50 wins, to be precise, a huge amount that must surely make him a contender to be the greatest stage racer of his generation.
Of those 19 stage race wins, the 2016 Vuelta a España is arguably the highlight. To win and overcome nemesis Chris Froome at the very peak of his powers, it was not enough for him to just be on his best climbing form (which he certainly was, as showcased by his win atop Lagos de Covadonga on stage 10). He also needed the bravery, foresight and imagination to launch an early attack on stage 15 that would catch Froome napping, a move that would turn out to be the decisive moment of the race, and epitomised an ambitious attitude and unwillingness to settle for second-best that has helped Quintana win so much over the years.
1. Giro d’Italia 2014: stage 16
If there’s a single win that encapsulates everything that’s great about Quintana, it’s this one at the 2014 Giro d’Italia. It showcased his love of long-range attacks, given he made his move the best part of 70km from the finish; his habit of rising to the occasion of the sport’s most iconic venues, on this occasion the Passo di Stelvio; his hardness in the face of horrible weather; and, of course, his devastating climbing speed, in the way he dropped all of his breakaway companions on the final climb to Val Martello.
The win was not without controversy, with confusion reigning as to whether or not the descent on which Quintana broke clear had been neutralised, but in any case his willingness to commit in such dangerous conditions revealed a ruthless streak to Quintana belied by his understated manner off the bike.
He ultimately put an enormous 4-11 into pink jersey rival Rigoberto Urán that day, enough to turn the race on its head and set him up for overall victory — a title that to this day remains his most prestigious.
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