Atapuma is the seventh Colombian ever to have held the Vuelta lead, with the previous two - Esteban Chaves (Orica Bike Exchange) in 2015 and Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) in 2014 - currently rounding out the top five overall.
"They have congratulated me on having the lead, as have [Chris] Froome (Team Sky) and [Alberto] Contador (Tinkoff). It’s very emotional seeing so many Colombian fans out supporting me. I would like to take photos with everybody, but I’m just happy to be there. It’s a very special moment for me."
Atapuma added that his team "had worked very well during the stage", with Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) trying a late attack inside the three kilometres-to-go barrier and once it became clear Atapuma’s lead was secure. "It wasn’t a difficult break away to control, and then we tried to pull back time as best we could. The stage was a bit dangerous at the end."
Although he was not directly affected by the big crash in the final kilometre, he said it had caused him to slow and ride in gently to the finish.
"For a moment I was worried somebody might hit me from behind when I braked, but I managed to get away from the crash without any difficulties."
With riders finishing in dribs and dabs because of the crash, and whilst the official confirmation that he was still leader took its time to come through, Atapuma said, "I had to wait for a while, but I wasn’t too stressed. I knew that any gaps would be cancelled out."
Although the next two stages through rolling terrain should not present too many challenges to his leader’s jersey, Atapuma says he has "no idea" how long he can hold onto the overall lead, "but whilst my legs can hold out, I will do what I can."
"I just want to be able to enjoy this lead as much as I can, and I will try to hold onto it for as long as possible."
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