2016 Vuelta a España

Stage 20: Benidorm to Alto de Aitana

The decisive day and final opportunity for those hoping to win the Vuelta comes with a tough route, ideal for ambushes between Benidorm and the Alto de Aitana, that includes the mountain passes of Rates, Ebo, Tollos, and Tudons, all of them 2nd category climbs, before the long descent previous to the final climb at Aitana, a special category climb, 21km long with almost 1,300 meters of slopes that could be a decisive one. The peloton will arrive with just enough energy after the ITT at Calp and it will be a very risky day for the favorites. The rider who wears the red jersey at the Alto de Aitana will have obtained the final triumph.

vuelta stage 20

Vuelta: Quintana stays in red as Latour wins stage 20

Nairo Quintana stayed in the red jersey after Saturday's mountainous stage 20 at the Vuelta. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Pierre Latour climbed to victory in stage 20 of the Vuelta a Espana Saturday, finishing first out of a two-man breakaway atop the mighty Alto de Aitana.

The Ag2r La Mondiale rider out-sprinted BMC Racing’s Darwin Atapuma by 2 seconds at the summit of the climb. Taking third was Fabio Felline of Trek – Segafredo, 17 seconds behind Latour.

Nairo Quintana retained his overall lead as the peloton prepares for the race’s final day. The Movistar rider finished with Sky’s Chris Froome, who was unable to make up ground and ride into the red jersey.

Quintana’s lead entering stage 21 stands at 1:23 over Froome and 4:08 over Orica – BikeExchange’s Esteban Chaves. Barring disaster, Quintana will officially win the Vuelta on Sunday in Madrid. It would be his second grand tour victory, the other being the 2014 Giro d’Italia.

Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador, who began the day in third place, dropped to fourth and is now 4:21 behind Quintana.

Stage 20, top 10

  • 1. Pierre LATOUR, AG2R LA MONDIALE, in 5:19:41
  • 2. Darwin ATAPUMA HURTADO, BMC RACING TEAM, at :02
  • 3. Fabio FELLINE, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at :17
  • 4. Mathias FRANK, IAM CYCLING, at :40
  • 5. Robert GESINK, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at 1:03
  • 6. Bart DE CLERCQ, LOTTO SOUDAL, at 1:28
  • 7. Rudy MOLARD, COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at 2:02
  • 8. Lilian CALMEJANE, DIRECT ENERGIE, at 3:01
  • 9. Jhoan Esteban CHAVES RUBIO, ORICA-BIKEEXCHANGE, at 3:17
  • 10. Nairo Alexander QUINTANA ROJAS, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 4:03

Top-10 overall

  • 1. Nairo Alexander QUINTANA ROJAS, MOVISTAR TEAM, in 80:42:36
  • 2. Christopher FROOME, TEAM SKY, at 1:23
  • 3. Jhoan Esteban CHAVES RUBIO, ORICA-BIKEEXCHANGE, at 4:08
  • 4. Alberto CONTADOR VELASCO, TINKOFF, at 4:21
  • 5. Andrew TALANSKY, CANNONDALE-DRAPAC PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 7:43
  • 6. Simon YATES, ORICA-BIKEEXCHANGE, at 8:33
  • 7. David DE LA CRUZ MELGAREJO, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at 11:18
  • 8. Daniel MORENO FERNANDEZ, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 13:04
  • 9. Davide FORMOLO, CANNONDALE-DRAPAC PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 13:17
  • 10. George BENNETT, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at 14:07

Froome began the day with a 1:21 deficit to Quintana after taking back 2:16 in Friday’s time trial.

The GC race heated up on the slopes of the Alto de Aitana, with several riders making moves as they fought for position. Froome and Quintana attacked the group in which they were riding with around 5km left, but the pair stayed together. Froome, who won the Tour de France for a third time in late July, did not have the legs to power ahead of Quintana on the Cat. 1 ascent that measured 21km and carried an average gradient of 5.9 percent.

Froome applauded Quintana as they crossed the finish line.

Chaves launched an attack 50km from the finish, an effort that put him on the Vuelta’s podium. He finished second in the Giro d’Italia this year and was fifth in last year’s Vuelta.

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 center.

“[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 from Quintana on the descents from four Cat. 2 climbs proved fruitless. He then tried with a series of attacks on the final climb, but Quintana comfortably sat on his wheel and followed all the way to the top before jumping in front at the line.

Froome also finished second in the Vuelta after losing out to Juan Jose Cobo in 2011 and to 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 isolated without teammates and was unable to respond to Chaves’s well-constructed attack.

“In the end the podium has eluded us by a few seconds,” said Contador, who will leave the disbanding Tinkoff team 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.”

Information from AFP was used in this report.

2016 Vuelta a España, stage 20: The final challenge
Stage 20 was the Vuelta’s final challenge, 193km with a 1,545-meter-high mountaintop finish. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Vuelta a España, stage 20: Christmas colors
Movistar went into the penultimate day with the red leader’s jersey and the green points jersey, but Alejandro Valverde lost green to Fabio Felline. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Vuelta a España, stage 20: King
Ben King led the way for the day’s early breakaway. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Vuelta a España, stage 20: Peloton
The peloton rode a sinuous descent, holding fire until the final climb, Alto de Aitana. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Vuelta a España, stage 20: Quintana
Calm and collected, Nairo Quintana defended his lead in the Vuelta. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Vuelta a España, stage 20: Felline
Felline led the winning move on the final climb. He ended up finishing third. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Vuelta a España, stage 20: Movistar armada
As has been the case throughout the Vuelta, Movistar was the race’s dominant team, protecting Quintana throughout the day. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Vuelta a España, stage 20: De la Cruz
David de la Cruz, seventh overall, followed Andrew Talansky, who locked up his fifth-place overall result. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Vuelta a España, stage 20: Colombian support
The Colombian fans were out in force to cheer on Quintana, the country’s first Vuelta winner since Luis “Lucho” Herrera. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Vuelta a España, stage 20: Latour wins
Pierre Latour won his first grand tour stage in impression fashion. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Vuelta a España, stage 20: Quintana sprints
In one final sprint, Quintana put an exclamation point on his Vuelta, beating rival Chris Froome to the line. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Vuelta a España, stage 20: Red is decided
Quintana now only faces one flat stage in Madrid before he can claim the red jersey for good. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com