Sept 11, 2016 – Colombia’s Nairo Quintana held off Tour de France champion Chris Froome to win the Vuelta a Espana in Sunday’s traditional procession around Madrid. Quintana beat out Froome for the first time in five Grand Tours when both have finished the race by 1min 23sec with another Colombia Esteban Chaves completing the podium.

AFP/Image: Yuzuru Sunada

Denmark’s Magnus Cort Nielsen won the 21st stage in a sprint finish for the 104.8km ride that started in Las Rozas on the outskirts of the Spanish capital before a 10-lap circuit through the centre of Madrid. Victory is Quintana’s second in a Grand Tour after the 2014 Giro d’Italia and was celebrated wildly by thousands of Colombian fans on the streets around the finish line.

“This is spectacular, it is a dream come true,” said Quintana.

“I have tried so many times to win the Vuelta. This morning it was in my head that I was the winner, but I still had to cross the line and until then I couldn’t raise my arms (in celebration).”

There was also revenge for Quintana, who has twice finished second to Froome at the Tour de France and was third as the Brit sealed his third Tour title in July.

“He respects me and I respect him,” added Quintana on his rivalry with Froome. “There has never been a problem between us and we don’t want the media to create any controversy.”

Quintana had suffered from allergies during the Tour de France, but having skipped the Olympics unlike Froome, who picked up a bronze medal in the time trial, he was the fresher rider for the grueling three-week tour which included 10 summit finishes in searing Spanish summer heat. And despite finishing second in the Vuelta for the third time, Froome insisted he had still enjoyed his best ever season.

“Of course I was here to fight for the victory, but after the season we’ve had with the Tour, Olympics and Vuelta, this has been the best season for me so far,” said Froome.

“Nairo was great this Vuelta, Team Movistar were great in the Vuelta and I have to say Chapeau to them because they really rode well and deserve the victory. I love this race, I love the Vuelta, the people here, the feeling on the race. It’s tough, it’s the toughest race and I hope to come back in the future.”

The Movistar rider built up a near one-minute lead over Froome with victory on stage 10. However, his major move came on stage 15 when an early attack left Froome isolated as Quintana finished second on the stage to extend his lead to a huge 3min 37sec. Froome responded by storming to a time trial win on stage 19 to cut the gap by 2min 16sec.

However, Froome could only applaud as Quintana staved off his attempts to breakaway on Saturday’s penultimate stage before crossing the line two seconds in front of his rival. Nielsen picked up his second stage win of the race by beating out Italy’s Daniele Bennati and Belgian Gianni Meersman in a time of 2hr 48min 52sec.

“I don’t know what to say. It is my first Grand Tour and it was crazy to get just one, so to get this one in Madrid too it is fantastic,” said Nielsen.

Results Stage 21:

1. Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica-BikeExchange 2:48:52
2. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Tinkoff Team
3. Gianni Meersman (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
4. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Dimension Data
5. Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin
6. Lorenzo Manzin (Fra) FDJ
7. Romain Hardy (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
8. Jhonatan Restrepo (Col) Team Katusha
9. Rudiger Selig (Ger) Bora-Argon 18
10. Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Sky

General Classification
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 83:31:28
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