Stage 21: Cercedilla to Madrid, 115.0km
Just as Paris is a processional for the winner’s jersey so is Madrid, so there were no fireworks in the GC. It was all about the final sprint. Once the peloton hit the outskirts of Madrid, a six-man breakaway went up the road, no doubt to try to get publicity for their teams. Sergey Lagutin (Vacansoleil-DCM), Kevin Seeldrayers (Astana), Sergio Carrasco (Andalucia), Francisco Aramendia (Caja Rural), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Javier Chacon (Andalucia) never got far enough ahead to do anything and were kept under 20 seconds on eight out of the ten laps around the capital.
The last kilometre saw teams vying for control but the peloton was a bit messy on the wide boulevard. Sky worked hard to set up Ben Swift, but it was the Argonauts, particularly lead-out man Koen de Kort, who put John Degenkolb in the position to ensure he gave the victory salute, pipping Liquigas’ Elia Viviani and RadioShack’s Daniele Bennati on the line.
The GC did not change in any way: Alberto Contador won, with Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez second and third respectively.
VeloVoices rider of the day
Adam Hansen – that Lotto-Belisol boy is a real trooper. He rode all three Grand Tours, was in the saddle for 60-some gruelling days this summer, avoided crashes, helped his teammates, retrieved hundreds and hundreds of bidons, got over monstrous climbs time and time again, and still had a happy tweet and a smile on his face. He is the only rider this year to complete the Grand Tour Ominium and a cyclist – a team player – like this is one of the reasons I love this sport so much. So chapeau, Adam Hansen! You are greater than a great thing from Great Town!
This has been the best Vuelta I’ve ever seen and I’ve loved every hair-raising minute of it. But we’ll be talking about that in our round-table this week so I won’t give it all away. But it’s been brilliant!
Contador‘s victory was assured, barring an event that would have kept him from crossing the finish line. But what did change a few things in the GC at the end was the cunning of Valverde. He kept up front and managed to finish sixth in the stage, snagging valuable points in both the points jersey competition and the combined or all-round jersey. Both of these were held at the beginning of the stage by Rodriguez – both of them were then presented to Valverde at the end of the stage. Either Purito and his team didn’t realise that those points would lose him both jerseys or he just didn’t have anything left inside him. Either way I’m disappointed for him, as it would have been fitting for him to come away with something from this Vuelta, considering his magnificent performance.
Look out for our post-Vuelta reviews, including a two-part round-table discussion, over the next three days. We’re all rather disappointed it’s all over, but we’ll try to bring back the memories!