Nairo Quintana will be crowned winner of the 2016 Vuelta a Espana on Sunday after fending off six attacks from Chris Froome on stage 20’s summit finish to retain the overall lead.
“I had no problem following Froome. He started to attack very early. That’s expected, and we were very attentive,” Quintana said. “The 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.”
Despite a nasty crash during the stage involving J.J. Rojas, Quintana finally countered in the closing meters to slip ahead of Froome, all but securing his first Vuelta title and the second grand tour victory of his young career.
“I don’t know if he’d be upset by that [final acceleration], he’s done it before, but it doesn’t matter,” Quintana said. “He’s a great rider, and his team was at a very good level, and they were always making 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.”
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