Five talking points from stage 21 of the 2018 Vuelta a España

The final talking points from the Vuelta a España 2018

Viviani asserts sprinting supremacy

Elia Viviani wins stage 21 of the 2018 Vuelta a España (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

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It was a messy finale to the last stage of the Vuelta that looked for a few moments that it would be impossible to call, but the usual outcome ultimately transpired with Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) winning the sprint.

>>> Simon Yates crowned Vuelta a España 2018 champion as Elia Viviani takes final stage

Quick-Step Floors were controlling the bunch at the front heading out of the final 180 degree turn into the final kilometre, but sat up and stalled as they realised that Viviani had lost contact with the train. An unusual sprint followed, with no lead-out

Eventually Danny Van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo) kicked, and looked on the verge of victory until Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) emerged to the right of him and Viviani to the left.

Of the two, Viviani again proved the quickest, winning his third stage win of the race – and his seventh Grand Tour stage of the season – while Sagan ends the race winless.

Bronzini goes out on a high at the Madrid Challenge

Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance) wins her last race as a professional, the 2018 Madrid Challenge (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Prior to the men’s race was the fourth edition of the women’s Madrid Challenge, which this year produced a fairytale winner in Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance Pro Cycling)

Bronzini announced last month that she would be be retiring at the end of the season to become a directeur sportif for Trek’s new women’s team, and produced one last hurrah in what has been a glittering career to win the sprint finish from a large breakaway group.

Having got herself into the group of sixteen that managed to just about hold off the bunch to contest the finish, Bronzini positioned herself wisely on Sarah Roy’s (Mitchelton-Scott) wheel, then coming out from her slipstream – exposing the rainbow stripes she still adorns on the jersey of her arms for the two world championships titles she claimed back in 2010 and 2011 – to claim victory.

Her breakaway companion Ellen van Dijk (Sunweb) was crowned overall winner of the Madrid Challenge thanks to the time gained in yesterday’s team time trial, but Bronzini was the star of the day, showing one last masterclass of sprinting from someone who has triumphed in so many sprint finishes over the years.

Sagan misses out as Valverde wins the points classification

Alejandro Valverde won the points jersey for a fourth time at the Vuelta (Sunada)

Amid the disappointment of his capitulation yesterday, the fact that Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) had all but sealed the consolation prize of the green jersey went somewhat under the radar.

The Spaniard had lead the classification for most of the race, first taking the jersey from Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) on stage seven. It might not have been the jersey he was targeting, but winning what is the fourth Vuelta points classification of his career is still an impressive achievement.

His victory marks the fourth year in a row that the jersey has been won by a non-sprinter, highlighting just how few chances their are for the fastmen these days. Even the peerless consistency of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) – who picked-up his fourth second place finish of the race – was not enough to win the classification.

Thomas De Gendt wins the King of the Mountains

Thomas De Gendt wins the mountains classification at the Vuelta a España 2018 (Sunada)

Thomas De Gendt was confirmed as winner of the white and blue jersey, in what was tightly-fought battle in the mountains classification.

With no categorised climbs on today’s stage, the Belgian had essentially already wrapped up victory yesterday – all he had to do was survive the 112km without crashing.

He faced quite a challenge to defend the jersey over stage 20’s six summits, however, with Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) laying down the gauntlet by attacking in pursuit of points. But De Gendt was equal to everything that was thrown at him, and, although Mollema was able to survive at the front of the race for longer, it was not long enough to claim the necessary points needed to dethrone the Belgian.

Mollema was at least awarded the overall combativity award for his efforts, but for De Gendt, who has spent so much of this race – and his whole career, for that matter – out in attacks, the 31-year old is a worthy winner of what is a first ever Grand Tour jersey.

Igor Anton bows out

Igor Anton retires after the 2018 Vuelta a España (Sunada)

Igor Anton (Dimension Data) led the race into Madrid, an honour bestowed to him following the news of his retirement from the pro peloton.

It feels like a long time ago now, but in his heyday Anton was one of the most exciting climbers in the peloton, and reserved many of his best performances for the Vuelta.

He won a total of four Vuelta stages with his souring attacks in the mountains, and might well have won the 2008 edition were it not for a crash that forced him to abandon while in the form of his life. Elsewhere, he also triumphed in a stage at the 2011 Giro d’Italia atop the Zoncolan, arguably the most feared climb in Europe.

Remembering these past successes, the Basque rider was applauded warmly by the crowds, and will be missed by the peloton.