Pascal Ackermann pipped Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Sam Bennett to the stage 18 sprint victory at the Vuelta a España, the German receiving a perfect lead-out from his Bora-Hansgrohe team.
It took a photo finish to reveal the winner, with Bennett fighting to come round Ackermann, both sprinters lunging for the line but Bennett leaving it a little too late to take his second Vuelta stage win this year.
Sunweb’s Max Kanter finished third, while Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) finished fourth, Jasha Sütterlin (Sunweb) then rounding out the top five.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) sealed his overall victory, beating Ineos’ Richard Carapaz by 24 seconds to successfully defend his title. EF Pro Cycling’s Hugh Carthy taking a hugely impressive third place overall.
How it happened
Davide Formolo was the one non-starter for stage 18, heading home as his wife was about to give birth.
Meanwhile, Chris Froome collected a trophy for his 2011 Vuelta win before starting his final race for Ineos ahead of his move to Israel Start-Up Nation next year.
The riders then settled in for the processional majority of the 139.6km around Madrid, Roglič and his Jumbo-Visma team-mates lining up for the standard celebratory photos.
At around the halfway mark, the peloton started to get their game faces on, the pace increasing and later lining out as they found themselves 20km from the start of the Madrid finishing circuit.
Jumbo-Visma set the pace into the five finishing laps, each one 5.9km in length. Other trains soon came to the front, Deceuninck – Quick-Step, UAE Team Emirates and Astana all jostling for position.
Lotto-Soudal’s Tim Wellens was the first to hit out with 30km to go, Willie Smit (Burgos-BH) soon joining him just ahead of the bunch.
Astana were moving up to the front of the peloton, aware of the time bonuses available at the intermediate sprint and Aleksandr Vlasov only two seconds back from Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in 10th on GC.
As Valverde marked Vlasov, the Russian eventually didn’t go for the intermediate sprint, as Gonzalo Serrano (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) joined Smit and Wellens up the road, as did Astana’s Dmitry Gruzdev, the quartet holding only a few second advantage over the bunch.
With 16km to go they had a 20-second gap, which halved over the next 5km.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step then all assembled on the front of the peloton, looking to set up Sam Bennett for another stage win, the breakaway were caught with 6km to the line.
Sunweb and Bora-Hansgrohe then forced their way through with 3km to go, Deceuninck – Quick-Step falling back, apart from Mattia Cattaneo who remained at the helm.
Mitchelton-Scott were next up, joining Bora-Hansgrohe on the front. Under the flamme rouge and Bora-Hansgrohe were still leading, Sam Bennett tucked onto the back of their train.
Ackermann then launched his sprint after the final corner, Bennett in his wheel as Jasper Philipsen opened his sprint on the left-hand side.
Bennett was pegging the German back but not in time before the line, both riders throwing their bikes and Ackermann just taking it.
Vuelta a España 2020, stage 18: Hipódromo de la Zarzuela to Madrid (139.6km)
1. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 3-28-13
2. Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
3. Max Kanter (Ger) Sunweb
4. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE Team Emirates
5. Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Sunweb
6. Emmanuel Morin (Fra) Cofidis
7. Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) NTT
8. Lorrenzo Manzin (Fra) Total Direct Energie
9. Robert Stannard (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
10. Jon Aberasturi (Esp) Caja Rural – Seguros RGA, all at same time
Final general classification
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 72-46-12
2. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 24 seconds
3. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Pro Cycling, at 1-15
4. Dan Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 2-43
5. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 3-36
6. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain-McLaren, at 7-16
7. David de la Cruz (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 7-35
8. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 7-45
9. Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 8-15
10. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 9-34
Final points classification
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma – 204 pts
2. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers – 133 pts
3. Dan Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation – 111 pts
Final king of the mountains classification
1. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis – 99 pts
2. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Soudal – 34 pts
3. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers – 30pts
Final youth classification
1. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, in 72-49-48
2. David Gaudu (Fra) Grouapam-FDJ, at 4-09
3. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana, at 6-00
Final teams classification
1. Movistar (Esp), in 218-37-21
2. Jumbo-Visma (Ned), at 10-23
3. Astana (Kaz), at 40-09