Nairo Quintana hails a new era of young Colombian riders after become the first rider from his nation to win the Giro d'Italia

Nairo Quintana has called his overall victory in the 2014 Giro d’Italia as a dream come ture and has said that there are a new generation of Colombian riders ready to rise to the top of professional cycling.

“It’s one of the happiest days in my life. I always dreamed of winning a Grand Tour and now it’s become real,” said Quintana after the race’s final stage in Trieste on Sunday, when he became Colombia’s first Giro winner.

“I wasn’t expecting at all to see so many Colombians in Trieste today,” Quintana said of the overwhelming support of his compatriots. “It was amazing to see so many flags through the circuit and around the podium. I’m super proud of my country.”

However commanding Quintana’s performance appeared, he revealed that he did have a moment of doubt on the same stage that ultimately saw his take the race lead – stage 16 to Val Martello.

“My biggest breakdown during the Giro was the Stelvio, where I wasn’t able to put my rain jacket on for the descent,” he said. “I was about to get off the bike to put on it, but then, Gorka [Izaguirre] was my best support; he forced me to continue with no rain jacket to ride on.

“It was snowing really much, all my clothes were wet, but he supported me all the way in that difficult moment, gave me some food and we went on. He gave me motivation to win such a difficult stage, so hard, yet so beautiful at the end, finishing with a smile.”

The 24-year-old Grand Tour champion also praised his fellow Colombian riders, and said that his victory is a taste of things to come.

“This generation of Colombian riders like me – we’re showing the world, since some of us came to Europe in 2012, we can win stages, important races, we show our quality – yet today’s win is a huge reality, another big success.”

“Last year I was second in the Tour de France, something that no other Colombian had achieved prior – plus, Rigoberto [Uran] was also second in the Giro. It might be coincidence, a choice of nature, but we’re strong, just like that. I think there are some other Colombian lads, younger than us, who are also strong and will show their quality in the future, in European teams and races.”

It is still unclear whether Quintana will be selected by his Movistar team to ride the Tour de France when the race starts in Yorkshire in July.

Quintana now sits atop the Union Cycliste Internationale’s WorldTour rankings, bumping Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) down to second. Colombia rises to second nation in the rankings behind Spain.