Fabio Felline's sixth top-ten result of the 2016 Vuelta a Espana saw the Trek-Segafredo rider take over the lead of the points classification with just one stage to come. The Italian leads the green jersey competition 100 points to Nairo Quintana's 97 points and with a fast finish, is poised to take home his first grand tour classification.
"I don’t have words," said Felline after he finish in third place on stage 20. "I think I need to reflect more on what I have done today. There was a moment today in the breakaway that I felt so, so tired, but then I thought back to the first part of the race when everyone was à bloc. So I told myself that because of that everyone is tired now. So I needed to be smart."
Felline had top-three results in sprint finishes and via breakaways prior to the penultimate stage of the Vuelta to have him sitting fourth with 83 points on the morning of stage 20. The Italian infiltrated the breakaway with the dream of taking a stage win but admitted that the final climb to Alto de Aitana got the better of him with climbers Pierre Latour (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Darwin Atapuma (BMC) more suited to the finish.
"I saw my best friend with seven kilometers to go and he told me, 'Allez Fabio you have the possibility to come back!', and that gave me more energy and motivation," Felline said. "When I saw [Atapuma and Latour] I felt the smell of victory, but I think when they saw me coming back, they made an effort, and then it was impossible for me to catch them. But I am very happy to get the green jersey.
"I am honest; I am super happy and relieved to have the points jersey after today. In the start I crashed, it was a silly crash, and I was so mad at myself. Then I needed to change the way the day was going because it had started really bad."
While Felline has a slender three point advantage over Quintana heading into the final stage, the Colombian race leader is unlikely to be chasing the points to secure green when the red jersey is his priority. Quintana's teammate Alejandro Valverde is third in the points classification with 93 points and poses as a threat to Felline but the 26-year-old believes he can hold on for the win.
"The victory is another thing, but for me to have the green jersey tomorrow in Madrid, I think it's a good reward for all the things that I did in this Vuelta. Sometimes it is difficult to win because it was a super strong Vuelta, and always I found myself in a breakaway with climbers stronger than me."