Nairo Quintana has turned up “like a lion” to score his first stage win at the Tour de France in five years.
The Movistar rider impressed on the short yet mountainous 17th stage to Col du Portet, attacking the mountainous terrain to finish alone at the summit and 30 seconds clear of his nearest challenger.
The win takes Quintana, 28, to fifth in the overall standings for this year’s Tour de France title.
“It was a hard day, but we had prepared well for it,” Quintana told reporters after the stage. “It went as exactly as we’d planned … We knew it was a stage for pure climbers, and we showed our strength.”
“I had some difficult moments in the first part of this Tour and lost some time, but I still felt strong and had the energy to finish the race on a high,” Quintana said. “I usually improve in the third week of the Tour, and it’s going that way.”
The 65-kilometre stage was perfect for riders like Quintana, with three mountain passes in a relatively short distance. The rider, from Cobaita in the Boyacá department, said he knew it was his opportunity to make his mark on the race.
“[It was] a day that was marked and it has gone as expected. I came out as a lion. I have said and I have put the word for all Colombians,” he said.
“All the support I’ve had from everyone, as well as my family and friends, really helped me today. We were a bit down in the last days, so we needed this win. It’s a wonderful day today.”
The win moves Quintana to fifth overall, 3 minutes 30 seconds off the pace of race leader Geraint Thomas. The rider has until Sunday to make up lost time as the race enters its final stages.
Quintana’s win will be a relief for Colombian cycling fans after bitter disappointment last week. Rigoberto Urán was forced to quit the race due to injury on Thursday, while young sprinter Fernando Gaviria was relegated on the same day.
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