Sept 10, 2016 – Colombian Nairo Quintana kept Tour de France champion Chris Froome at bay to virtually seal the Vuelta a Espana on Saturday with just Sunday’s procession around the streets of Madrid to come.

AFP/Image: Yuzuru Sunada

Froome, aiming to become the first man in 38 years to do the Tour-Vuelta double, applauded as Quintana crossed the line on the 193.2km stage from Benidorm to Alto de Aitana two seconds ahead of him to extend his lead to 1min 23sec.

Quintana’s compatriot Esteban Chaves made the most significant move on the penultimate stage by leapfrogging Alberto Contador onto the podium after an attack 50km from the finish saw him gain 1min 24sec on the three-time Vuelta champion.

Frenchman Pierre Latour won the stage from Colombia’s Darwin Atapuma and Italian Fabio Felline in a time of 5hrs 19mins 41secs. Sunday’s 104.8km flat stage takes the riders from Las Rozas on the outskirts of the Spanish capital into a series of laps around the city centre. Froome cut his gap to Quintana by over two minutes by storming to a time trial win on Friday, but his bid ultimately never recovered from losing 2min 37secs when he was caught out by an early attack by Quintana on stage 15.

It is the first time in five Grand Tours that Quintana has beaten Froome when both have finished the race having finished on the podium for all of the Brit’s three Tour de France wins in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

“He (Froome) started to attack very early on in the descents, but I didn’t have any problem in defending all the way to the final climb,” Quintana told Spanish TV station Teledeporte.

Froome’s early attempts to escape Quintana’s attentions on the descents from four category two climbs proved fruitless. The Sky rider then tried with a series of attacks on the final special category climb to Alto Aitana, but Quintana comfortably sat on his tail and followed all the way to the top before jumping in front just before the line.

Froome also had to settle for second in the Vuelta after losing out to Juan Jose Cobo in his breakout tour in 2012 and Contador in 2014.

“I want to congratulate him,” added Quintana. “He is a great rival, yesterday he had a great time trial and he made me suffer.”

Contador was the big loser on the day as he was again isolated without Saxo-Tinkoff teammates and unable to respond to Chaves’s well-constructed attack to miss out on third by 13 seconds.

“In the end the podium hs eluded us by a few seconds,” said Contador, who will leave the disbanding Saxo-Tinkoff to join Trek-Segafredo next season.

“The team gave their all, but perhaps they haven’t been strong enough in the mountains. That’s the way things are, I congratulate Nairo for his win, Froome for a great race and Chaves, who had very good tactics.”

Results Stage 20:

1. Pierre-Roger Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 5:19:41
2. Darwin Atapuma (Col) BMC Racing Team 0:00:02
3. Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:17
4. Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling 0:00:40
5. Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 0:01:03
6. Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:01:28
7. Rudy Molard (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:02:02
8. Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie 0:03:01
9. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange 0:03:17
10. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:04:03

General Classification:
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 80:42:36
2. Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:01:23
3. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange 0:04:08
4. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff Team 0:04:21
5. Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac 0:07:43
6. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange 0:08:33
7. David De La Cruz (Spa) Etixx – Quick-Step 0:11:18
8. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Movistar Team 0:13:04
9. Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac 0:13:17
10. George Bennett (NZl) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 0:14:07