Despite a number of challenges on the Aito de Aitana, Team Sky’s Froome was not able to distance himself from his rival, leaving the Movistar man’s one minute and 23 second lead intact with just today’s processional stage into Madrid to come. Frenchman Pierre Latour (AG2R-La Mondiale) won the stage from a breakaway inspired by Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange), who succeeded in wresting overall third place from Spain’s Alberto Contador and denying the Tinkoff team a podium place in their final Grand Tour.
Chaves’ British team-mate Simon Yates secured sixth place overall.
Froome had started the day with high hopes of overhauling Quintana after pulling over two minutes back on his rival during the individual time trial stage on Friday.
But Quintana matched the Briton’s best efforts to all but end his quest to become the first man to win both the Tour de France and the Vuelta in the same year since the great Bernard Hinault in 1978.
The pair rode to the summit almost together and as Quintana sprinted clear at the last, Froome took his hands off the handlebars to applaud his rival.
Meanwhile, Steve Cummings will take a 26-second lead into the final stage of the Tour of Britain in London today after emerging unscathed from a difficult double stage in Bristol. A strong display from Rohan Dennis (BMC), who won the penultimate stage having placed second in the time trial earlier in the day, narrowed the gap to the overall leader, which had been 49 seconds at the start of the day.
But Cummings (Dimension Data) did just enough to hold on to first place, finishing fourth in the time trial and safely within the main group at the finish of stage 7b.
Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) had claimed victory in the time trial, pipping Dennis by three seconds.
Then Dennis attacked shortly before the finish of 7b, but Cummings led the pursuers, keeping the Australian in his sights.