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Nairo Quintana (Movistar) attacks the maillot jaune
Colombian hoping to challenge Contador for second
"I'm very happy," said the Movistar rider at the finish. "I was fighting to make a good race. For this achievement I want to thank my team and my teammates, the soigneurs, everybody in the team for getting me on the podium."
Throughout much - if not all - of this year's Tour de France, the Quintana has kept us all talking about his superior climbing abilities. The 23-year-old Colombian has been irrepressible in the mountains and it proved to be more of the same on Alpe d'Huez. Quintana was the first of the general classification riders to cross the finish line, just over two minutes down on the day's winner Christophe Riblon. More importantly he put time into Bauke Mollema (Belkin) and Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) - who was sent back to help his team leader Alberto Contador.
There was much discussion as to whether the riders would be allowed go down the Col de Sarenne, and if we would even see the dual ascension of Alpe d'Huez. In the end we were treated to some great action, but unlike in previous races Quintana stayed safely inside the bunch until the final selection began to take place. He latched onto an attack from the yellow jersey Chris Froome, who looked like he was going for his fourth stage victory.
With the group nearing the top of the day's second Alpe d'Huez ascent Froome struggled with his energy levels. The Colombian left behind a struggling Froome, to take fourth place on the day.
"I saw him [Froome] in a little bit of difficulty," Quintana explained. "But he had Richie Porte from his team and I had already had a time advantage so for me it was all about trying to stay calm. I was taking my own time in the stage."
Yesterday Quintana said he was more interested in putting time into Michal Kwiatkowski in the young rider's competition, but once the Pole was out of contention his focus shifted. "Today I was fighting for it but it was very difficult," he said about his newly acquired third place.
The road to Paris
Quintana's performance on Alpe d'Huez has not only put him on the podium, but he is now within touching distance of Contador and second place overall. Contador put in some big efforts on the descent of the Col de Sarenne, which looked to have taken more out of himself than his rivals. In the end the two-time Tour winner finished over two minutes down on the Colombian, who is now only 22 seconds behind him in the GC. This hasn't slipped the mind of Quintana, who is nearing the biggest result of his young palmarès.
"We are hoping that tomorrow we can make quite a difficult stage," said Quintana. "The team will surely not give up, then maybe we can be sure of the position we are in. We have some very good climbers.
"Tonight we will try to rest our legs so we can prepare well for it. The directeur sportif will make a good strategy for the team so we can make a good race. I will be working and fighting all the way to Paris."