12 Sep 2016

Bennett finishes 10th on Tour of Spain

10:21 am on 12 September 2016

The Nelson cyclist George Bennett has finished 10th on the Tour of Spain, one of the best results by a New Zealander on a grand tour.

Nelson cyclist George Bennett.

Nelson cyclist George Bennett. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

After his Dutch Lotto team-mate Steven Kruijswijk crashed out two weeks ago, Bennett was given the shot at the general classification.

"I never expected this. A top 10 in a big Tour. I am very happy," said Bennett.

"I was here to work for Steven. After Steven crashed out I started living for the GC per day."

Bennett credited his team-mates for his result. "Robert Gesink took me by my arm. Also Tankink and Van Emden did. They have a lot of experience. Especially Robert shared his knowledge with me how to tackle a classification. Again, I'm over the moon."

Meanwhile, Colombian Nairo Quintana completed his maiden Vuelta victory when he safely rolled in to Madrid at the end of a three-week battle with Chris Froome.

After being outclassed by Briton Froome at the Tour de France, the 26-year-old struck back to become his country's first Vuelta winner since Lucho Herrera in 1987.

Quintana, who led from stage 10 onwards, adds the victory to his win in the Giro two years ago, which was also the last time his team Movistar won a three-week tour.

Magnus Cort Nielsen of Orica-BikeExchange won the final bunch sprint in Madrid ahead of Daniele Bennati and Gianni Meersman, but this was Quintana's day.

Cheered on by many of his compatriots lining the Madrid streets, Quintana said it had been a "dream" victory.

"It felt like half of Colombia were here," he said. "It was spectacular. I've been fighting so many times to win La Vuelta and now finally we've done it.

"This morning in my head I was a winner but I knew I had to cross the line and until you cross it you can't say you are champion."

Froome applauded Quintana over the line on Saturday after he had successfully fought off his attacks in the final and decisive day in the mountains around Benidorm.

Sunday's stage was processional and even saw Froome and Quintana share a glass of champagne.

Froome's chances of becoming the first rider to win the Tour de France and Vuelta back-to-back for the first time in 38 years took a hammer blow on stage 15 last weekend when he missed a break and Quintana grabbed two minutes 43 seconds to add to the lead he had already established.