Tour de France: Nairo Quintana congratulates rival Froome on another victory

'The truth is that he's a great rival'

There are some sportsmen who, you sense, have the misfortune of having been born into the 'wrong' era.

Andy Murray, for example, might have more than three Grand Slams to his name were it not for the cruel twist of fate that had him born a week apart from Novak Djokovic. Luis Ocaña, or indeed anyone who spent their career in the shadow of Eddy Merckx, would be en example from within the sphere of cycling. And it is becoming the same for Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in what we can now refer to with increasing assuredness the 'Froome era'.

Chris Froome all-but wrapped up his third Tour de France victory on the penultimate stage 20 to Morzine on Saturday and the podium will have a familiar feel to it as Quintana defended his third place.

"I have to congratulate him. The truth is that he's a great rival – strong rival whom I've had to fight against quite a lot," the Colombian told a huddle of journalists from a team car as the rain pelted down in Alps.

"In the coming years it will definitely continue that way. Sometimes he'll win, sometimes I'll win – as we've seen this year in the various races we've done together."

The problem is, Froome has always won when the pair have gone head-to-head on the biggest stage, winning the three Tours Quintana has started.

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Quintana emerged a few years ago as a precocious talent and it has always been considered a case of when, rather than if, he will win the Tour – and how many. Second on his debut when he wasn't really expected to fight for GC, second last year, and now third here; it might seem frustrating but the 26-year-old insisted he could be satisfied with what he's achieved this July.

"In the end, the assessment is positive. Obviously we came here with a much bigger and more ambitious goal, but we have many years to keep trying," he said.

"In any case, a podium in the Tour de France – this is the Tour, the biggest thing in cycling – I'm very happy to finish in this position."

Quintana may have fallen short of the goal he has worked towards for many months, but he has had time to absorb the disappointment, with his chances of winning the yellow jersey having evaporated on Wednesday's stage to the Emosson dam, where he began to be held back by allergies.

Since then, despite continuing to suffer physically, he has made his way onto the podium, which he described as a 'miracle' yesterday. The mountainous final stage with it's concluding descent into Morzine saw him defend his place on the podium and his teammate Ion Izagirre take stage honours, and such it was a good note to end on.

"The truth is that I'm very happy. Three Tours, three podiums. I'm finishing this one with great happiness despite the difficulties I've had.

"And today practically closing the Tour with a stage victory for my teammate and friend… we've fought so much together and he has supported me so well."

Quintana paid tribute to each of his teammates and – despite Froome claiming Sky were ostensibly the strongest team in the race – it's the Movistar men who will be standing on the podium tomorrow as winners of the teams' classification.

"Going to Paris as a team is very special, and it's not often you get the chance to stand on the podium in Paris.

"It's a great reward for all my teammates who fought every day – that has been reflected at the end of this Tour and we can go away very happy."

Tour de France stage 20 highlights video

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