It was a fine moment for Russia's Denis Menchov to at last be able to ride into Madrid wearing the leader's golden jersey and to enjoy the accolades that are afforded to a Grand Tour winner. It's the second time he's won the Vuelta a España, but the first win didn't come until five months after the race had finished. In 2005, Menchov was second to Spaniard Roberto Heras, but when Heras tested positive for EPO and was sanctioned, the award was handed down to the Russian.
Now, the Russian can truly savour the hard-earned victory, and the taste of it has given him increased confidence. "It makes all the difference in the world to win it like this," Menchov said of his outright win. "I wanted a solid win in the Tour of Spain, it was important for my career," he continued, "and now maybe I can crack the Tour de France too."
Menchov's ride in this year's Vuelta was nothing less than dominant - he had more than three minutes over second placed Carlos Sastre (CSC) and Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), who took third. The Rabobank rider also won the mountains classification and the 'combination' classifications, and held the overall lead in the race from stage nine to the finish in Madrid on Sunday.
His victory was a relief and a confirmation of the 29 year-old's promise for future Grand Tours, but it was also a catharsis for his Rabobank squad. The team spent days defending the yellow jersey of Michael Rasmussen during the Tour de France, only to have him withdraw from the race while still in the lead after being fired by the Rabobank team over missed drug tests. "We are getting experienced in defending the leader's jersey," said team manager Erik Breukink.