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Nairo Quintana (Movistar) capped a fairy-tale season Sunday by winning the decisive mountain stage and the overall at the Vuelta a Burgos.
The featherweight Colombian dropped everyone, including the chasing Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Ivan Basso (Cannondale), on the second of two passages up the Lagunas de Neila climb, which served up grades of 14 percent.
Just three weeks after barnstorming through the Tour de France, where he finished second and claimed the mountains and best-young-rider jerseys, Quintana mastered the demanding 170km fifth stage against a field of veterans heading to the Vuelta a Espana in two weeks.
Luckily for the likes of Nibali and Basso, who crossed the line 48 and 25 seconds back, respectively, Quintana will be heading home to a hero’s welcome in Colombia.
“It all turned out perfectly, just like we planned it before starting the race. We were hoping to lose as little time as possible in the days prior to this stage to try and win the race on the queen stage,” Quintana said.
“It’s not that I was fearing of losing, but with such strong rivals, in great condition leading up to the Vuelta a España, I had some doubts about being able to stay on their wheel or lose it. I spent the whole stage at the front and that costs you some more energy, but when I saw them losing a bit of spirit, I attacked and it all came to fruition.”
David Arroyo (Caja Rural) was the last man standing against Quintana, finishing second on the stage and second overall.
Arroyo was first to attack with about 1.6km to go, drawing out Basso, Quintana and Nibali.
Nibali attacked with just over 1km to go, prompting the winning counter from Quintana. Nibali tried in vain to hold the wheel, but Quintana was simply gone. Nibali saved his honor by taking third on the podium.
With Sunday’s demonstration, Quintana proved yet again he’s certainly not intimidated at the thought of going up against Europe’s top riders.
Quintana will return to Europe for the Tour of Britain and the worlds, while Nibali and company are breathing a sigh of relief that Colombian is skipping the Vuelta this year.