Alberto Contador had a trouble-free final ride on Sunday?s last stage of the Tour of Spain, taking his first Vuelta and third major Tour of his career. The final stage went to Dane Matti Breschel in a bunch sprint.
At just 25, the Spaniard is now part of the exclusive club of winners of all three major Tours: the Astana rider is preceded by names as prestigious as Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil and Felice Gimondi.
The final stage of the Tour of Spain on Sunday, a 100 kilometre ride between San Sebastian de los Reyes and Madrid consisted of the usual victory parade before a final bunch sprint for the line in the sunlit centre of the Spanish capital.
Breschel (CSC-Saxo Bank) clinched the sprint after several big crashes in the last three kilometres.
But the real hero was Alberto Contador, the first Spaniard ever to take all three major Tours. Not the great Miguel Indurain achieved that, although with five Tours and two Tours of Italy in his palmares, Contador has some way to go yet before overtaking the Navarran.
Contador took the Vuelta by playing a waiting game. His Astana team took no risks in the opening team time trial. Then in the first individual time trial, rather than crushing the opposition as Lance Armstrong might have done, the Spaniard finished fourth behind team-mate Levi Leipheimer.
In the Pyrenees, Contador was the strongest but only by a very limited margin – and again he did not move into the lead.
But one by by one his rivals started to disintegrate of their own accord: Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank) was a shadow of the rider who won the Tour (he said the in-fighting with manager Bjarne Riis had a dire effect on his performance). Then Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d?Epargne) pressed the self-destruct button on his gc chances when – of all things – he went back for extra clothing at the bottom of a dangerous descent. Astana split the bunch in two, and Valverde ended up losing over three minutes.
Contador?s moment finally came after a fortnight on the Angliru, the race?s toughest climb. In a clinical operation, Astana relentlessly tightened the screws until Contador was able to charge off the front alone, 3.5 kilometres from the mountain top finish.
Contador then increased his advantage with his second mountain top finish in 24 hours, at Fuentes de Invierno.With Leipheimer in second, there was little chance of him losing the race even though a week?s racing still remained.
And so it proved. Saturday?s mountain time trial outside Madrid brought another victory for Leipheimer, but the Spaniard?s overall advantage was such he remained in gold despite a relatively low-key ride in Navacerrada. Twenty-four hours later, the Spaniard was crowned the winner.
Contador?s success is the latest in a series of victories in an exceptional year for Spanish cycling.
Starting with Oscar Freire?s victory in Ghent-Wevelgem, since then Liege-Bastogne-Liege (Valverde), the Giro (Contador), the Dauphine (Valverde), the Tour (Sastre), San Sebastian (Valvede), the Olympics (Sanchez), the ProTour (Valverde) and now the Vuelta (Contador) have all gone Spain?s way. Any bets on a Spanish win in the World Championships?
TOUR OF SPAIN 2008: STAGE 21 RESULTS
San Sebastian de los Reyes – Madrid
1. Matti Breschel (Den) CSC-Saxo Bank
2. Alexandre Usov (Blr) Ag2r
3. Davide Vigano (Ita) Quick Step
4. Koldo Fernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
5. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Silence-Lotto
6. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Lampre
7. Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner
8. Sebastien Hinault (Fra) Credit Agricole
9. Loyd Mondory (Fra) Ag2r
10. Xavier Florencio (Spa) Bouygues Telecom all same time
32. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Credit Agricole at same time
FINAL OVERALL CLASSIFICATION
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana in 80h 40min 8secs
2. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 46secs
3. Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC-Saxo Bank at 4min 12secs
4. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 5min 19secs
5. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 6min
6. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 6min 50secs
7. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 6min 55secs
8. David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis 10min 10secs
9. Egoi Martinez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 10min 57secs
10. Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre at 11min 56secs
107. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Credit Agricole at 2h 24min 43secs
Contador in action on the final stage
Final podium (l-r): Levi Leipheimer (second), Alberto Contador and Carlos Sastre (third)
Photos by Graham Watson
|TOUR OF SPAIN 2008|
Stage 21: Contador wins 2008 Tour of Spain
Stage 20: Contador sets up overall win
Stage 19: Arroyo denies sprinters with seconds to spare
Stage 18: Roche loses stage by inches
Stage 17: Weylandt takes Quick Step’s fifth stage
Stage 16: Boonen wins second sprint
Stage 15: Garcia Dapena takes solo win
Stage 14: Contador takes second mountain-top stage win
Stage 13: Contador wins on Angliru to take lead
Stage 12: Bettini wins, Valverde out of contention
Stage 11: Freire wins stage
Stage 10: Hinault wins, Martinez retains lead
Stage nine: Van Avermaet takes stage, Martinez new leader
Stage eight: Moncoutie triumphs in Vuelta’s second Pyrenean stage
Stage seven: Ballan takes surprise win in mountains
Stage six: Bettini wins, Chavanel leads
Stage five: time trial win for Leipheimer
Stage four: Bennati takes crash-strewn stage
Stage three: Boonen bounces back
Stage two: Valverde powers into lead
Stage one: Liquigas are surprise winners
Contador becomes quickest to complete Grand Tour set
Sastre slams Riis for lack of support
Tour of Spain rest day review 1
Tour of Spain on Eurosport (schedule)
Behind the scenes at the Tour of Spain
Tour of Spain – still a week too long?
Tour of Spain kicks off this weekend