Nairo Quintana (Movistar) snatched overall victory in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and moved to fourth overall in the individual UCI WorldTour rankings thanks to an impressive performance in the final individual time trial.
The punchy Colombian climber used his power and determination to pull back enough time on key rivals Richie Porte and Sergio Henao (Team Sky) to take overall honours. It was Quintana's first UCI WorldTour stage victory. He is still only 23 years old but has an excellent pedigree, having won the 2010 Tour de l'Avenir and the Vuelta a la Region de Murcia, the Route du Sud and the Giro dell'Emilia in 2012.
Quintana scored 100 UCI WorldTour ranking points thanks to his victory and so jumped to fourth place in the individual rankings.
He now has a total of 182 points. Slovakia's Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling) continues to lead the ranking with 312 points after his string of impressive rides in the one-day Classics. Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) is second with 251 points, while Porte â€“who won Paris-Nice in March, is in third place with 200 points. 2012 UCI WorldTour winner Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is fifth, with 144 points.
Team Sky extended its lead in the team ranking. The British team now has a total of 536 points. Katusha moved up to second with 390 points, while RadioShack-Leopard slipped to third with 366 points. Spain leads the nation ranking with 447 points, ahead of Slovakia and Italy.
Quintana rode strongly throughout the rain-soaked, six-day Basque race and also won the hilly fourth stage. Many expected the final time trial to be a battle for overall success between Porte and Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) but Porte lost 23 seconds to Quintana, while Contador struggled and finished the time trial in tenth place. Porte held onto second place overall, with his teammate and former race leader Henao slipping to third overall.
"I felt really good during the time trial and during every day of the race. You needed to be mentally and physically strong in the rain and cold, and everything went right for me. The climb in the time trial suited me and helped me win overall," Quintana said.
"I'm young and so itâ€™s important to keep learning. This season I was looking for an early victory at Paris-Nice. I got a stage victory at the Volta a Catalunya, one here and now the overall too. I want to dedicate this victory to the team; they helped me a lot during all the race. This is a victory for the Movistar team."
Time for the Ardennes Classics
Quintana and many of the stars of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco have a chance to rest up for a few days and then will head to Northern Europe for the Ardennes Classics.
The Amstel Gold race in the southern and hilly Limberg region of the Netherlands is the first race of the series on Sunday April 14.
The 251km race route twists and turns through the countryside, testing rider's bike handling skills and tactics as much as their climbing ability and endurance.
The finish is traditionally atop the short Cauberg climb, which is covered several times during the race. This year the finish line has been pushed a further 1.8km over the top of the hill and so riders will need a fast sprint and good climbing ability if they want to win.
The finish will suit Quintana but also local hero and current world champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team), who won his rainbow jersey on exactly the same finish.