VALLOIRE, France – Colombian cyclist Nairo Quintana won stage 18 of the 2019 Tour de France on Thursday.
It was Quintana’s third stage win in France since his first appearance at the Grand Tour in 2013.
“The intention this morning was to go to the front to be up there in support to (teammate) Mikel (Landa),” Quintana said after the win.
“I managed to squeeze into the breakaway group. I followed the rhythm which was pretty high on the col d’Izoard. Remaining at the front enabled me to ride for the stage win.”
The Movistar team’s 29-year-old rider earned a triumph in the first alpine stage, dominating the race from Embrun to Valloire, with a huge advantage.
“Towards the finale, people started struggling and I felt I was in good shape,” the Colombian said.
Quintana finished the 208 km stage in first place with a time of five hours, 34 minutes and 15 seconds.
Frenchman Romain Bardet, of AG2R La Mondiale team, came in second place at one minute and 35 seconds off the pace.
“I didn’t get what I wanted in the Pyrenees. There’s still some way away but today it was my goal to make the breakaway,” the French rider said.
Astana Pro Team’s rider, Alexey Lutsenko of Kazakhstan, completed the podium as he arrived at the finish line, two minutes and 28 seconds later than Quintana.
Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe kept the yellow jersey for one more day as he stayed atop the general classification despite finishing the stage in the 14th spot.
“I promised to give it all in the mountains and I did,” Alaphilippe said after the race.
“It’ll be the same again tomorrow and the day after. I won’t give up.”
The other Colombian rider, Egan Bernal, climbed into the second spot of the overall standings, having finished the alpine stage in eighth place.
“It’s a very nice day for Colombia. I’m very happy for Nairo Quintana, he deserves it,” Bernal said about his countryman who won the stage.
Bernal, from team Ineos, also kept the white jersey for being the best young rider of the day.
Briton Geraint Thomas, also from team Ineos, fell to the third spot of the general classification, having been the 13th cyclist to reach the finish line on Thursday.
“We (the team) have two very hard days ahead of us. We have to remain calm and not lose our focus because of today’s joy. Let’s keep our feet on the ground,” Bernal said.
A mountainous stage 19 is set to take place Friday, covering 126.5 km from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Tignes.