Quintana came into the decisive day of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana with a 54” deficit against the GC leader, a gap seemingly unsurmountable in only four kilometers of definitive climbing, yet Saturday brought a pure exhibition by Quintana in the Mas de la Costa ascent, one of the most amazing display in his already-prolific career, to take over the leader’s jersey, claim the Movistar Team’s first success of the 2017 season and celebrate his 27th birthday in style.

Helped out by his seven team-mates, who sustained the pace of a Sky-driven peloton all over the 4,000-meter elevation gain the stage contained before the last Cat-1 ascent, Nairo attacked right from the bottom of the ascent, initially followed by Amaro Antunes (W52) and Merhawi Kudus (DDD). The Portuguese rider was soon dropped back, with the Eritrean still keeping Quintana’s wheel for just over one kilometer before losing sight of the Colombian’s wheel. A very steady pace, the signature move of the now-27-year-old superstar, ended up bringing him the 32nd victory of his career, 40" ahead of Kudus and 1'07" over Ben Hermans (BMC), tied with team-mate and yellow jersey holder Greg Van Avermaet and now second overall at 13 seconds with one day to go.

The squad directed by José Luis Jaimerena has a very short and fast stage ahead on Sunday: 130km starting at Paterna and finishing with a urban circuit around Valencia’s City Hall, with an only climb in the Alto del Oronet (Cat-3). In the Turia capital, Nairo hopes to start his 2017 season just like he ended his 2016 efforts in the Vuelta a España: on top of the podium of a stagerace.