Team Sky’s Froome will become the second successive British rider to win cycling’s biggest stage race following team-mate Bradley Wiggins’s victory last year, finishing the 100th edition of the Tour with an advantage of five minutes and three seconds over runner-up Quintana.
The Tour’s final stage into Paris usually concludes with a large bunch sprint on the famous Champs-Elysees – but the stage is traditionally not contested by the general classification riders meaning the overall places are effectively now set in stone.
"This is an amazing feeling - absolutely amazing,” said Froome. “To be here in yellow at the Tour is difficult to put into words.
"It has been an amazing journey for me. The race has been a fight every single day. It really has been a special edition. I'm 28. Most cyclists come into their prime in their early thirties. I would love to come back and keep targeting the Tour every year."
Kenyan-born Froome took third place on the short and sharp mountainous stage 20 behind the impressive winner Quintana (Movistar) and a resurgent Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).
Riding his debut Tour, Quintana’s maiden stage victory also secured the 23-year-old Colombian the polka dot jersey as the race’s best climber and the white jersey as the best young rider, not to forget the all-important second rung on the podium in Paris.
Rodriguez, who crossed the line atop the HC climb of Semnoz 18 seconds down on Quintana, moved into third place on GC at the expense of fellow Spaniard Alberto Contador, who finished a further two minutes and 10 seconds down to drop off the podium on the eve of the race’s final processional stage into Paris.
Slovakia’s Peter Sagan (Cannondale) finished the 125km stage with a trademark wheelie more than 15 minutes in arrears to secure a second successive green jersey in only his second Tour. Regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s showpiece sprint finale on the Champs-Elysees, Sagan will top the points classification, entering the final stage with an insurmountable 101-point lead over Britain’s Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
While Contador was one of the big losers of the day, dropping from second to fourth on GC and finishing the race more than seven minutes behind his big rival Froome, his Saxo-Tinkoff team did secure the overall team classification after some consistent riding across the board over the full three weeks.
Besides Froome, Quintana and Rodriguez, the biggest winner of the day was the American Andrew Talansky, who moved into the top 10 after a strong sixth-place in the gruelling stage.
The big losers of the stage were numerous and included plucky Frenchman Pierre Rolland (Europcar) who failed in his quest to secure a second successive king of the mountains title for his team after Thomas Voeckler’s heroics in 2012.
Trailing Froome by one slender point at the top of the standings, Rolland wore the polka dot jersey by default as the third of three consecutive Alpine stages got under way in Annecy.
Rolland attacked as soon as the flag was waved for the official start, forming a 10-man break alongside team-mate Cyril Gautier, Mikel Astarloza and Igor Anton of Euskaltel, Marcus Burghardt (BMC), Jens Voigt (RadioShack), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM), Christophe Riblon (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Pavel Brutt (Katusha) and Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge).
A stage winner in the past two Tours, Rolland crossed three of the first four lower category summits in pole position to move 15 points clear of Froome at the top of the polka dot jersey standings. But aware that the final climb offered double points because of its status as a summit finish, Rolland was always up against it.
German veteran Voigt – the oldest man in the peloton at 41 and riding his final Tour – broke clear on the Cat.1 Mont Revard 62km from the finish. A chase group formed around Rolland and was joined by BMC pair Philippe Gilbert and Tejay van Garderen and Frenchman Alexis Vuillermoz (Sojasun), who all jumped clear of a Movistar-led peloton.
Voigt crossed the summit with more than a minute on the chasing group and three minutes over the peloton – a lead which had come down to just two minutes by the time the rangy RadioShack star had reached the foot of the final major climb of the Tour.
Relentless pace-setting by Sky blew the peloton apart on the climb and soon all the escapees – including Rolland – were swept up except Voigt, who continued his doomed solo ride with pain etched across his face.
By the time Voigt was caught with 8km remaining, only six riders were left on the front of the race: the yellow jersey Froome, his faithful Sky team-mate Richie Porte, Quintana, the Colombian’s Movistar team-mate Alejandro Valverde, Contador and Rodriguez.
An acceleration by Froome did for everyone except Quintana and Rodriguez, and the trio rode to the summit together before Froome put in another large attack with 2km remaining.
Quintana matched Froome’s dig before riding clear inside the final kilometre. Knowing that the race was won, Froome slowed to allow Rodriguez to ride off in pursuit of the Colombian. But Quintana held on for his debut win, 18 seconds clear of Rodriguez. Froome crossed the line with an understated clench of the fist a further 11 seconds back.
Valverde took fourth place at 1:42 while a grinning Porte came home for fifth at 2:17. Talansky finished 10 seconds later just ahead of Contador, whose team-mates Jesus Hernandez and Roman Kreuziger also finished inside the top ten on the day, behind the Frenchman John Gadret (Agr2-La Mondiale) in eighth.
Victory for Quintana saw him move 11 points clear of Froome to secure the polka dot jersey so coveted by Rolland. The Colombian also won the white jersey as best young rider by 13 minutes and 19 seconds over Talansky.
With Froome toasting a well-earned overall victory, the riders will complete the 2013 Tour de France on Sunday with an unprecedented evening arrival on the Champs-Elysees. The 133.5km stage 21 from Versailles from Paris should finish around 8.30pm UK time and is expected to see Cavendish secure his fifth successive sprint win on the cobbled streets of the French capital.