Nairo Quintana wins Spanish Vuelta ahead of Froome
MADRID (AP) Movistar rider Nairo Quintana won the Spanish Vuelta on Sunday, adding the title to the 2014 Giro d'Italia on his Grand Tour list of honors.
The Colombian climbing expert had cemented his commanding lead over nearest rival Chris Froome in Saturday's decisive mountain stage.
Following custom, Froome did not challenge Quintana on the traditional ride into the Spanish capital on the 21st and final stage. Instead, the two top cyclists of the moment spent some time chatting as they pedaled along side by side.
Quintana finished the 71st edition of the race 1 minute, 23 seconds in front of second-placed Froome.
Quintana completed the grueling three-week course that covered 3,315.5 kilometers (2,060 miles) in 83 hours, 31 minutes, 28 seconds.
Esteban Chaves finished in third place and more than four minutes off the pace. He was followed by three-time Vuelta winner Alberto Contador in fourth.
Quintana wore the red leader's jersey for the 12th consecutive day as he rode into Madrid flanked by his triumphant Movistar teammates.
Quintana raised both arms in victory as he breezed across the line in the pack behind the sprinters competing for the stage. He then exchanged embraces with his teammates before shaking hands with Froome.
''I woke up this morning feeling like the winner, but I couldn't raise my arms in celebration until I crossed the finish line,'' Quintana said. ''This is probably the most important (win) for me, considering the scenario and who I was racing against. Froome is a great rival.''
Magnus Cort Nielsen of Denmark won the flat 105-kilometer (65-mile) ride starting in Las Rozas before making loops through Madrid's center in 2 hours, 48 minutes, 52 seconds. It was his second stage win of this race.
At age 26, Quintana has established himself as one of the premier cyclists in the world and the top rival to three-time Tour de France champion Froome.
Quintana has twice finished runner-up to Froome at the Tour, most recently in July when he couldn't mount a serious challenge to Froome and his dominant Sky team.
Two months later, Quintana finally got the better of the British cyclist after pulling away to win the Vuelta's mountainous 10th stage finishing at Lagos de Covadonga.
He increased his lead to more than 3 + minutes by using an early breakaway on the 14th stage, finishing at the Aramon Formigal summit. That gave him the cushion he needed to survive a blistering time trial by Froome on the 19th stage.
Froome finished second at the Vuelta for a third time, after also coming close in 2011 and 2014.
''Nairo was great this Vuelta. Team Movistar was great this Vuelta ... they really rode well and deserve the victory,'' Froome said. ''Of course I was here to fight for the victory, but after the season I have had, the Tour, the Olympic games, the Vuelta, this has been the best season for me.''
Quintana was leading the 2014 Vuelta when he was forced to withdraw with a broken shoulder after falls on consecutive days.
''I have tried to win the Vuelta so many times and I finally did so today,'' he said.
The large crowd that turned out to celebrate his victory waved Colombian flags. Quintana became the second Colombian to win this race after Luis Herrera in 1987.
Quintana said that the elusive Tour remained his top goal.
''It's a dream that is still with me and I hope one day I can make it come true,'' he said. ''I will keep working toward it.''