Vuelta 2018: Stage 21 – Viviani takes Madrid sprint, Yates takes Vuelta title

The last Grand Tour of 2018 finished in Madrid with all the traditions: a processional day in the saddle, a bunch sprint and a win for Quick-Step. Elia Viviani took his third stage of this Vuelta and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) is the Vuelta 2018 champion.

Rider of the Race

Elia Viviani gets the thumbs up from me. I really wanted to give it to someone else, maybe a member of his lead-out train, but he’s just too good for me to ignore.

Yes, his teammates drive it on and protect him but behind all that power Viviani is working too. On this sprint, he seemed to get unhitched from his train, then he appeared to boxed in. But he kept making tiny adjustments, changing his position pedal-stroke-after-pedal-stroke until he was ready to go. And when he does go, it appears he’s going twice as fast as anybody else. It’s thrilling to watch – it must be exhilarating to execute.

He’s been the top sprinter of the season. How he must wish there were a flat world championships this year.

Excuse me have you any ID?

The podium winners look like they’ve barely started shaving.

A word on the winners

Simon Yates (GC): It could have been a horrible year for Simon Yates if he’d lost this. He was leading Paris-Nice only to lose it by 4 seconds on the last day. He led the Giro for 13 days but cracked on stage 19. Instead, he’ll remember 2018 as his best year yet. We’ll remember how Yates rode a measured race, keeping well within himself and proved to be the strongest rider. What’s next for the Mitchelton-Scott rider? There’s already talk of another title at the Giro d’Italia title next season, but in any case, he has one Grand Tour win under his belt now and will most certainly build on that into the future.

Thomas De Gendt (king of the mountains): De Gendt won this with a massive assault on the climbs over the last week of the race. However, he had been sowing the seeds from the start, getting himself into break after break. That in itself is hard enough, but factor in hauling your ass up the climbs and trying to be the first under the banner several times each day and you have the definition of a bloody big effort. In the end, no one else was close to the Belgian in KOM points. For a guy who takes so many chances only to see them turn into nothing, it was pleasing to see him on the podium with his infamous blue balls.

Alejandro Valverde (points competition): True fact: Alejandro Valverde only wore his regular Movistar kit on the first day of the Vuelta. After that, he sometimes wore white but mostly wore green. And that sums up Valverde’s Vuelta, he was a focal point of attention most days. A GC podium was beyond his grasp but the veteran Spaniard was so active throughout the race that he thoroughly deserves his spot in the record books for this Vuelta.

Simon Yates (combined competition): When his grandkids look at the framed white jersey on his wall and say “and what did you win this one for?” he’ll be able to say: “I’m not too sure – the only time I wore it was on the podium.”

Movistar (team competition): Apparently this is a big deal to the Spanish squad. You can bet they’d have loved the top step of the rider’s podium even more. Boss Eusebio Unzue must be plotting next year’s Grand Tour assault already. But will the disappointing Nairo Quintana or the ageing Valverde figure in those plans? Watch and see.

Best Grand Tour of the year?

Everyone has their own favourite Grand Tour of the season but there’s a fair case to be made for the Vuelta being the best of this year. With none of the hype of the Giro or Tour, the racing was much more open (until the final day) and absorbing to watch. There were fewer serious crashes and no hysterical polemics around it.

Maybe the talent pool was slightly slimmer than in Italy or France but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The route, the team tactics and the riders provided surprises every single day (bar the final stage …).

Hasta la vista, Vuelta.

Stage results

1 Elia Viviani (Quick-Step) 2:21:28

2 Peter Sagan (Boro) same time

3 Giacomo Nizzolo  (Trek) s/t

4 Danny Van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo) s/t

5 Marc Sarreau (Groupama-FDJ) s/t

GC standings

1 Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) 82:05:58

2 Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) +1:46

3 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) +2:04

4 Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) +2:54

5 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1:38

6 Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) +5:57

7 Rigoberto Uran (EF-Drapac) +6:07

8 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +6:51

9 Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) +11:09

10 Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) +11:11

All the jerseys

Leader’s jersey: Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)

Points jersey: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Climber’s jersey: Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal)

Combined jersey: Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)

Team classification: Movistar

Official Vuelta website is here;  Full stage review from cyclingnews

Header image: ©GETTY/Velo/Tim de Waele 

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