Vuelta a Espana 2009, stage 21 photo gallery by Graham Watson>>
Alejandro Valverde had no problems on the final day's racing of the Tour of Spain, taking the overall victory after an easy final stage from RivasVaciaMadrid to Madrid. Samuel Sanchez and Cadel Evans completed the final podium.
The final stage had little of interest barring the chaotic bunch sprint for the line, won for a fourth time in this Tour of Spain by Germany's André Greipel. The Columbia-HTC fastman also claimed the points jersey overall, whilst David Moncoutie of Cofidis was the King of the Mountains for the second year running.
The star of the final stage, though, was Valverde, the winner of a major Tour for the first time in his career at the relatively late age of 29.
It was, to say the least, a strange win, with Valverde moving into the lead on stage nine to Xorret de Cati by taking a third place. The eight second time bonus allowed him to edge into yellow ahead of Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto).
Valverde then played a ultra-defensive game, slowly increasing his advantage by taking seconds here and seconds there over his rivals, rather than making the single-all out attack that tends to be what wins riders major Tours. (Just ask Lance Armstrong).
A series of bad luck depleted the ranks of his rivals, already exhausted by one of the most difficult Tours of Spain in the last two decades, with stages of up to 5,000 metres of climbing.
Evans, Valverde's most dangerous challenger in the time trials, punctured at a critical moment on Sierra Nevada and lost over a minute. The Australian tried to fight back on the Pandera and rode a strong final race against the clock, but by then Valverde and his all-powerful Caisse D'Epargne team had a stranglehold over the race.
Others, like Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Robert Gesink (Rabobank), Ivan Basso (Liquigas) and Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo-Galicia) suffered from injuries and/or were slightly less consistent than Valverde. And that slight difference, combined with those untimely injuries, ended up giving the Spaniard the edge.
One indication of just how peculiar this Vuelta has been is that none of the riders who finished in the top eight overall managed to win a single stage.
The first to do so was Ireland's Phillip Deignan (Cervelo), ninth overall. That was his country's best finish in a Grand Tour since Stephen Roche took ninth in the Giro back in 1993. And he won the stage into Avila.
Other high points of the Vuelta that teetered towards tedium on more than one occasion were David Millar's brilliant final time trial win, his first victory since taking the Nationals title back in 2007.
On top of that, his Garmin-Slipstream team-mate Dan Martin's 100 kilometre break through the mountains of stage 19 to La Granja was a notable effort for a rider racing in his first three-week Tour, working for a team leader Tom Danielson and who suffered badly in the stages in Holland and Belgium. And last but not least, Roger Hammond (Cervelo) finally took part in and completed his first major Tour, at 35, as well as taking third in the opening road stage and eighth in the last. Next stop - the World's.
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Stage 21, Rivas-Madrid, 110.2km
1. Andre Greipel (Ger) Columbia-HTC in 3-11-55
2. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas
3. Borut Bozic (Slo) Vacansoleil
4. Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis
5. Sebastien Hinault (Fra) Ag2r
6. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Lampre
7. Gregory Henderson (NZl) Columbia-HTC
8. Roger Hammond (GB) Cervelo
9. Tom Leezer (Ned) Rabobank
10. Paul Voss (Ger) Milram all same time.
85. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 30sec
Final overall classification
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne in 87-22-37
2. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 55sec
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 1-32
4. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 2-12
5. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 4-27
6. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 6-40
7. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne at 9-08
8. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Lampre at 9-11
9. Philip Deignan (Irl) Cervelo at 11-08
10. Juan Jose Cobo (Spa) Fuji-Servetto at 11-27
75. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 2-03-28
91. Roger Hammond (GB) Cervelo at 2-22-26
Andre Greipel wins the final stage of the 2009 Vuelta and seals the green jersey win
Final podium (l-r): Samuel Sanchez (second), Alejandro Valverde (winner), Cadel Evans (third)
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Latest news and features
Deignan delighted with hard-fought win over Kreuziger
Gesink okay to start Vuelta stage 18 after crash
Freire set for retirement in 2010
Unlucky Horner crashes out of Vuelta
Wegelius abandons the Vuelta
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Who will win?
Vinokourov back with Astana for the Vuelta
Britain and Ireland well represented in Vuelta
2009 Vuelta route favours climbers
Cycling Weekly's Rider Profiles: Index
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Stage reports
Stage 20: Millar wins final time trial
Stage 19: Gesink slides down overall
Stage 18: Deignan takes Irelands first Vuelta stage win in 21 years
Stage 17: Roux takes solo win
Stage 16: Greipel storms to third win
Stage 15: Boom solos to win
Stage 14: Valverde suffers but strengthens lead
Stage 13: Unlucky Evans loses time on rivals
Stage 12: Hesjedal wins second stage for Garmin
Stage 11: Farrar takes first grand tour victory
Stage 10: Gerrans takes breakaway victory
Stage nine: Cesar wins as Valverde leads in la Vuelta
Stage eight: Cunego takes first mountain stage of 2009 Vuelta
Stage seven: Cancellara outpaces Millar in TT
Stage six: Bozic surprises sprint rivals to take win
Stage five: Greipel wins again and takes race lead
Stage four: Greipel wins after big crash wipes out bunch
Stage three: Henderson wins stage
Stage two: Ciolek takes first road stage, Hammond third
Stage one: Cancellara wins Vuelta opener
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Photos
Stage 21 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 19 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 18 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 17 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 16 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 15 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 14 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 13 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 12 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham WatsonStage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
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