he final stage of the Tour of Spain, ended - as expected - in a bunch sprint, and also - as expected - with Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) victorious for the first time ever in a major Tour.

Sunday?s stage, starting and finishing in Madrid was taken by Milram veteran Erik Zabel, who explained afterwards that he finished second on no less than eight occasions on the last stage of a major Tour, so he was very pleased that he had finally won one!

The German?s second Vuelta stage win of this year?s race came after Milram had reeled in a dangerous last attack by Pedro Horrillo (Rabobank) in the final kilometre.

?I got the perfect lead-out.? Zabel said afterwards, ?all I had to do was open up the throttle in the final little rise ot the finish.?

Overall there was no last minute change, with Vinokourov finished 1-12 ahead of Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D?Epargne-Iles Balears) and 3-12 ahead of Andrey Kashechkin (Astana)

?This is sporting revenge for what happened to me in Julyu.? Vinokourov, whose Astana squad had to pull out of the Tour at the last minute after several of his team-mates were implicated in a doping scandal, said later.

?I had a lousy first week, but got stronger and stronger as time went on. Now I want to have a equally successful World Championships.?

The one unexpected feature of the sunsoaked final day?s racing was the appearance of one Floyd Landis at the race. The American took advantage of a trip to see his lawyers and then visit the start. He was not prepared to make statements to journalists, although the day before he told the Spanish press he was going to fight on for his innocence.

As for VInokourov, after taking his first major stage race the Kazakh must now be counted on as a key factor in the World Championships, where he will race both the time trial and the road-race - and the Tour de France next year.

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