By Stephen Puddicombe published
Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) won the final stage of the 2013 Vuelta a Espana with a dominant sprint finish, while Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) finished an incident-free day safely in the bunch to complete victory in the overall classification.
The podium is rounded off by Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), while Ireland's Nicholas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) placed fifth.
Matthews was comfortably the quickest in the final sprint on the streets of Madrid, holding off Tyler Farrar (Garmin) by a bike length. Niklas Arndt (Argos-Shimano) could only manage third despite the impressive work of his team, who were first around the vital final corner and supplied their sprinter a slick lead out.
There haven't been many bunch sprints this Vuelta - reflected by the fact that a climber, Alejandro Valverde, won the points jersey - but the few stages that have ended this way have been dominated by the Australian Matthews, who back in the first week outsprinted the rest of the field to win stage five. At just 22 years of age, we can expect yet greater things from him in the future, with a start at next year's Tour de France a possibility.
As a pan-flat circuit around the streets of Madrid, the final stage was virtually nailed on for the sprinters, but that didn't stop Alassandro Vanotti (Astana) and the compulsive attacker Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural) from trying their luck. The pair opened up a gap of around 30-40 seconds but never looked like staying clear, and were eventually caught with five kilometres to go.
The catch was made with Sky's train at the front of the peloton, and with strength in numbers it briefly looked as though the British-based team were going to lead out Edvald Boasson Hagen into the finishing straight, but they faded and the Norwegian missed out on the top ten.
Instead, Argos-Shimano took control in the final few hundred metres, but Matthews' speed was such that no one could come close.
Vuelta a Espana 2013, stage 21: Leganés to Madrid, 109.6km
1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge in 2-44-00
2. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp
3. Nikias Arndt (Ger) Argos-Shimano
4. Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
5. Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida
6. Grega Bole (Slo) Vacansoleil-DCM
7. Adrien Petit (Fra) Cofidis
8. Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Argos-Shimano
9. Francesco Lasca (Ita) Caja Rural
10. Robert Wagner (Ger) Belkin all same time
Final overall classification
1. Chris Horner (USA) RadioShack-Leopard in 84-36-04
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 37 secs
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 1-36
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 3-22
5. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Saxo-Tinkoff at 7-11
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r at 8-00
7. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ at 8-41
8. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 9-51
9. Leopold Konig (Cze) NetApp-Endura at 10-11
10. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha at 13-11
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
King of the mountains classification
1. Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis
Michael Matthews takes his second 2013 Vuelta a Espana stage win
Chris Horner wins overall
Final podium: Vincenzo Nibali (second), Chris Horner (winner), Alejandro Valverde (third)
Vuelta a Espana 2013: Coverage index
Stephen Puddicombe is a freelance journalist for Cycling Weekly, who regularly contributes to our World Tour racing coverage with race reports, news stories, interviews and features. Outside of cycling, he also enjoys writing about film and TV - but you won't find much of that content embedded into his CW articles.
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