Remco Evenepoel said it felt "amazing" to effectively clinch Vuelta a Espana general classification glory and answer his critics in style.
The 22-year-old will be garlanded on Sunday as Belgium's first Grand Tour winner since Johan De Muynck took the 1978 Giro d'Italia title.
The Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider safely navigated Saturday's 181-kilometre stage from Moralzarzal to Puerto de Navacerrada, considered the last serious test for the riders.
On Sunday, it will be an essentially processional 96.7km ride from Las Rozas to the finish in Madrid, with a sprint in store once the riders reach the capital.
Richard Carapaz won Saturday's stage, his third victory of the 2022 edition of La Vuelta, attacking decisively as the summit of the Puerto de Cotos closing ascent approached. He has taken King of the Mountains honours too, in a highly successful Vuelta performance.
Evenepoel crossed the line in sixth place, with his overall lead of two minutes and five seconds over Enric Mas meaning he can prepare to stand on top of the podium at the Plaza de Cibeles on Sunday.
"I don't know what going through my head and my body right now, but it's amazing," Evenepoel said, after crying tears of happiness.
Evenepoel faced criticism during and after the World Championships last year, when he questioned Belgium's race tactics and suggested he might have won a gold medal if the team had chosen him as a leader.
Wout van Aert and Jasper Stuyven were the leaders instead and Belgium finished empty-handed, but on Sunday the country will have a confirmed Grand Tour champion.
"All the bad comments I got from last year, I think I answered everybody with my pedals," Evenepoel said on Eurosport. "I've been working so hard to come here in the best shape possible, and to now win this Vuelta is amazing."
He said the victory was "for Belgium, for my team-mates, for my parents, for my fiancee", adding: "I was really stressed this morning. I didn't sleep too much last night because you just know what's coming to you, and it was a super tough stage, but I'm just super happy that I won La Vuelta.
"I didn't even think about winning a stage. I just wanted to win the general classification. It's an amazing year. It's the best year I can imagine and wish for."
Carapaz at the summit
INEOS Grenadiers' Carapaz has enjoyed a superb Vuelta. He is one of only two riders, along with Mads Pedersen, to win three stages at this year's race, doubling his career total of Grand Tour stage wins, while the Ecuadorian is the first South American to win the mountains classification at La Vuelta since 2004.
1. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) 04:41:34
2. Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) +0:08
3. Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) +0:13
4. Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) same time
5. Enric Mas (Movistar) same time
1. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 78:00:12
2. Enric Mas (Movistar) +2:05
3. Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) +5:08
1. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) 379
2. Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) 174
3. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 133
King of the Mountains
1. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) 73
2. Robert Stannard (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 36
3. Enric Mas (Movistar) 28