TRIESTE Italy Nairo Quintana took victory in the Giro d'Italia in commanding style at his first attempt on Sunday, becoming the second Colombian to win a grand tour.
The Movistar rider, who finished second overall in the Tour de France last year, built his success in the mountain stages.
The 24-year-old finished two minutes 58 seconds ahead of compatriot Rigoberto Uran to become only the second rider from Colombia to win a grand tour after Luis Herrera won the Tour of Spain in 1987. Italian Fabio Aru took third place, 4:04 off the pace, according to provisional results.
"It was very difficult to explain how much happiness is inside of me. It's one of the happiest days of my life. Thanks to my team and my family," Quintana told reporters. The final stage, a 172-km ride from Gemona del Friuli, was won by Slovenian Luka Mezgec but he was unable to prevent France's Nacer Bouhanni, fourth on the day, claiming the red jersey for the best sprinter.
"It couldn't get any better than this. I'm close to home and Slovenia. There are lots of friends here. I'm the happiest man in the world today," said Mezgec.
Quintana took the overall lead in controversial circumstances after he pulled away in a descent from the Stelvio pass and increased the gap in the final climb of the 16th stage.
There was confusion as organisers appeared to neutralise the race during that descent, made dangerous by the terrible weather conditions, but then told teams to ignore the instruction. Quintana did not apologise and blitzed to victory in the uphill individual time trial three days later, making clear his climbing qualities could not be matched.
"Confidence and patience allowed us to get this result," said team manager Eusebio Unzue, the man who groomed Quintana.
It was a great Giro for the South American nation as another Colombian, Julian Arredondo, took the blue jersey for the mountain classification.
(Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond)