Slovenian Primoz Roglic was crowned king of the Vuelta a Espana for the second successive year as the Jumbo Visma rider safely reached Madrid after a largely processional stage 18 yesterday.
It was a sweet moment for the 31-year-old former ski jumper whose hopes of winning this year’s Tour de France were snatched away in dramatic circumstances on the penultimate day.
For a while, on the final brutal climb to Alto de la Covatilla on Saturday, it had looked as though Roglic might let another Grand Tour slip through his fingers as Ecuadorean Richard Carapaz, who pushed Roglic to the limit over the Spanish mountains, dropped him in a devastating late attack.
But Roglic dug deep and although his 45-second lead was slashed in half, he entered the final day’s flat 139km roll-in to Madrid with a 24-second lead and the red jersey secured barring an unprecedented mishap.
The final day of the 75th edition of the Vuelta was left for the sprinters to strut their stuff along Madrid’s eerily quiet Paseo del Prado – a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic which has largely locked down the city.
After several laps of a loop around some of the capital’s landmarks, Germany’s Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) beat Sam Bennett in a photo-finish to crown a hectic few months of Grand Tours.
But the real plaudits were saved for Roglic who took four stages in this year’s race to also claim the points jersey.
Former Giro d’Italia winner Carapaz did wear the red jersey for five days but once Roglic took it back with a commanding time trial on Tuesday he was never going to let it go, even if he suffered a huge scare.
“The more you win the more you learn how to enjoy it but it’s always a different story, it’s a different race and you can’t compare it,” Roglic said.
“It’s amazing and I’m very happy to be part of this team. It’s beautiful to finish a season like this.
“There are still a few goals I want to achieve in my career. That is an enormous motivation for me for the coming years.”
Carapaz (Ineos Grenadriers) finished second while Britain’s Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) made the podium of a Grand Tour for the first time in his career.
It was an emotional day for Chris Froome, the four-times Tour de France champion, as he rode his last day in the saddle for Ineos Grenadiers (formerly Team Sky). The Briton, who will join Israel Start-Up Nation, was presented with the 2011 Vuelta trophy retrospectively before yesterday’s stage after Juan Jose Cobo was stripped of the title last year for doping.
While Froome was once regarded as the world’s best cyclist, that honour now belongs to Roglic.
He bounced back from his Tour de France heartbreak by winning the Liege-Baston-Liege classic last month, and has now underlined his huge array of weapons in Grand Tours.
“He’s amazing, he’s the best bike rider in the world,” team mate Jonas Vingegaard said.
“The way he has pulled back after losing the yellow jersey on the last day of the Tour, I mean that’s amazing.”
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