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Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 21 of the Vuelta a España, from San Sebastián de los Reyes to Madrid.
Three weeks of gruelling racing end here. The Vuelta's equivalent of the Tour de France's Champs-Elysées finish sees the riders take on eight laps of 6km on the Paseo de la Castellana in the centre of Madrid. Tens of thousands of fans should turn out to watch the final spectacle unfold, with a bunch sprint the almost certain outcome.
After yesterday's thrilling action on the final climb of the race, what can we expect today? Well the riders are at the start now and Nibali, in the leader's jersey looks relaxed as he smiles for the paparazzi.
The riders will be facing a 12-lap circuit and the speeds will be high. A number of sprinters to watch out for today. Of course Mark Cavendish will start as the favourite to win the stage. He's taken three stages so far in the race and would love to seal another one today before heading to the Worlds in Australia where he'll lead Team GB.
Cavendish will be pushed all the way by his main rival Tyler Farrar from Garmin Transitions. The American, who will also head to the Worlds, has picked up one stage in the race so far and sits seconds, behind Cav in the points competition. The jersey is still up for grabs.
We've seen that Gilbert is in the form of his life but I'm not sure he'll want to risk competing in the sprint today as it could get messy. Instead, watch out for Bennati. The Italian hasn't really found his sprint legs but a couple of years ago he was the only man on the planet that could compete with Cav. Can he find that form today?
Hutarovich, Haedo, Fernandez, Davis, Van Avermaet and Cardoso are all candidates for the win too. Take your pick, name your top three and send them to twitter.com/dnlbenson and I'll try and print as many as I can.
Right now more and more riders are making their way from the buses to the start line for the sign in. Decent crowds on show but they'll be huge on the circuit and certainly once we hit the finish.
Sign in has closed and the riders are all on the start line. Nibali moves to the front and takes his place next to Moncoutie, Rodriguez and Cavendish.
We've not even started the stage and already you're picking your top three for the stage:
Farizky Rahman farizkyrahman @dnlbenson my pick : Cavendish, Farrar, Bennati
We're off. The riders are heading out through the neutralized zone.
Remember to stay tuned to CN later today as we'll be bringing you live coverage from the US national champ road race.
The neutralized section is just under 10km long and the riders have nearly completed it.
Remember to keep your top-three picks for the stage coming in to twitter.com/dnlbenson. No prizes on offer, just the admiration and respect of everyone you know if you get it right.
SlapshotJC @dnlbenson Farrar, Cavendish, Haedo
The bunch are nearly done with the neutralized zone. First attacks should come quickly enough.
In other news, Greipel signed off at HTC with another win at the TOB. Last race for the German with the American team and he was a real gent in the post race press con yesterday. He'll be a real threat to Cavendish next year and suddenly Lotto are looking like a real powerhouse for 2011. Here's the story.
Fabian Cancellara will decide in whether to ride the Worlds on Tuesday. If you're following live, Fabian, please turn your phone on.
Back to the Vuelta and Mosquera says he's satisfied with second place in the Vuelta.
Out of the neutralized zone now and the pace is still slow. After three weeks of hard, epic racing who can blame the riders for taking things easy for a little bit.
The bunch are just rolling along at a nice pace, chatting and taking time to enjoy themselves. No attacks to speak of yet.
saddleblaze @dnlbenson Someone needs to mix it up a little: 1. Cardoso, 2. Cavendish, 3. Weylandt
Nice, I like your thinking.
Glad to see that Nibali isn't covered in red clothing from head to toe. He has no red bike and no red cycling shorts, only red glasses provided by his sponsor Rudy Project. Some of his team-mates have put a red tape on the frame of their bike. Class.
Meanwhile Joaquin Rodriguez was chatty at the start today after it was confirmed he's the number 1 rider in the world. “I’ve realized that I’m becoming the world’s number 1 rider after the Vuelta. This is a great achievement. I’ll probably stay in first place as the season is almost over. I’m proud of this. It shows how productive my 2010 season has been.”
One rider that won't be relaxing too much is Tyler Farrar: “If I win today’s stage and Mark Cavendish finishes behind fifth place, I win the points classification as well. I’m hoping for both.”
Meanwhile the riders are still taking things easy. They'll hit the finishing circuit in around 10km and then do 12 circuits.
From our friends at Eurosport: CabineEurosport @dnlbenson 1st Cardoso 2nd Farrar 3rd Haedo (from Eurosport Portugal)
Hugo VeryHugeO @dnlbenson Cavendish...50 metre gap.. then Farrar then it could be anyone
Third place on GC, Peter Velits was a happy boy at the start today: “There’s no energy to save for tomorrow, and my position on GC is secured, so I’ll ride up there as well with the other guys preparing the sprint for Cavendish. I’m super happy with my Vuelta and we want to finish with one more stage win and the green jersey.”
David Moncoutié winner of the KOM had this to say: “The Vuelta ends with exactly what I wanted at the start: the polka dot jersey and a stage win. It’s very nice. It’s been the scenario I expected with taking points early and calculate later on. The fight for the KOM has been tighter than in previous years. I might come back next year for the absolute record of being a four times winner of mountain price at the Vuelta but that’s still far away in my mind. Before thinking of next year, I’ll finish this season with the Tour of Lombardy in sight.”
Here's a good tweet: GaborKiss1 @dnlbenson Cavendish, Farrar and Hutarovich for the podium. Bennati and Haedo will be disappointments today, they had to work yesterday.
The bunch are still just rolling along and enjoying themselves.
We have our first attack and it's Dominik Roels from Milram. He's been so aggressive in the race this year, it's been great to see. Can he cause a massive upset today? Probably not but he's entertaining nonetheless.
Well he's giving it a real go, at least. He's got around 30 seconds on the bunch already.
kaburns1214 @dnlbenson Goss, Cav 100 meters and then the field. Cav secures the green and lets Goss take a Grand Tour stage win.
No reaction from the field as yet.
# drfrot @dnlbenson We're 150m from the line, right below the big screen. Look out for the Welsh flag! It's got to be Cav today #vuelta 5 minutes ago via Twitter for iPhone
# drfrot @dnlbenson Got our hat trick today: engaged at the Giro, married during the Tour, and now honeymooning at the #Vuelta! Giles & Ginevra Croft
News just in that Danny Pate has signed for HTC-Columbia. Story coming soon...
Javier Ramirez (Andalucia-Cajasur) has joined Roels at the front of the race.
A few more riders have jumped across too.
Liquigas on the front, leading the bunch into Madrid. Nibali smiles for the cameras as he comes through. Huge day for him, and he's really arrived as a GC contender for major tours. You can say that there's not Contador, Evans, Schleck or Basso here but the Italian has ridden a great race and beaten the opposition put before you. You can't do any more than that.
Here are the leaders, and they have 43 seconds.
Dominik Roels (Milram), Javier Ramirez (Andalucia-Cajasur), Jurgen Van Goolen (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Olivier Kaisen (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Gonzalo Rabunal (Xacobeo Galicia).
Three laps completed by the leaders, Liquigas still leading the bunch, the sprinters' teams just sitting back and taking it easy for now. The pace is fast, but not break-neck.
The gap is creeping towards a minute.
Four laps down and the gap is holding at 53 seconds.
drfrot @dnlbenson Well, it's not quite the Champs Élysées, but everyone's going crazy when they go through. It's hot hot hot!
Roels leads the break through a switchback, gets out the saddle and swings off.
The Liquigas team continue to lead things at the moment but a few more teams are moving up, with Quick Step and HTC showing their faces near the front.
The leaders finally make the one minute mark but they've had to work really hard to get it.
1.07 is the gap. Liquigas are doing such a good job that the sprinters' teams can take a back seat for now.
Roels is wearing a skin suit today.
Just under 35 to go and the break complete another laps. Cavendish back in the bunch, sitting on a teammates wheel. This will be the first points jersey he's won in a grand tour if he can get enough points today.
Vande Velde hits the front now, working for Garmin and their sprinter, Tyler Farrar. Three weeks of solid racing will have really helped Vande Velde find form and confidence.
Garmin are bringing things back together. Just twelve points separating Cav and Farrar and now the HTC train come to the front.
The gap comes down, it's just 37 seconds now.
Garmin and HTC controlling the bunch now, both with three or four guys on the front.
Thirty to go and the gap is down to half a minute.
The bunch are starting to line out now as the gap drops to just 28 seconds.
25 seconds as HTC and Garmin throw more men to the front.
Roels is burying himself in the break but it's not going to be his day.
Roels attacks the break but is quickly brought back - he's clearly riding for his future in the sport.
Meanwhile QuickStep has come to the front and joined the chase.
Just over 20km to go and the gap continues to come down. It's 15 seconds now.
Almost the entire HTC team on the front, the gap is 10 seconds.
The pace is increasing, the bunch all lined out now as the break continue to press on. It's not going to work for them today though.
Barredo leading the bunch for Quickstep now. Quickstep have a sprinter at the race in Weylandt.
Fantastic Madrid skyline as the break roll towards the end of another lap. The gap holding at 15 seconds .
HTC still leading the bunch with Lampre starting to live up.
15km to go.
Garmin move up and take up the pace. The gaps is now more than 5 seconds.
Just two laps to go now. Barredo back on the front and working hard.
8km to go and the bunch are flying along the streets of Madrid.
Too fast for any attacks as Garmin and HTC control affairs on the front. Liquigas are moving Nibali as close as possible to the front of the bunch.
Last lap and Liquigas are now on the front and setting a furious pace.
Nibali is in third wheel, trying to keep out of trouble.
5km to go.
Sprinters all moving to the front now. Lotto try a move.
I think that's Gilbert who has attacked. He's being brought back though.
HTC and QS on the front now.
3km to go and HTC are in control. Can Cav make it four?
Cav has just one teammate left though, Goss and QS take over.
Weylandt, can he take the win?
Here we go. just 2km to go.
QS still in control. Cav and Farrar right near the front.
1000 meters to go.
QS leading out.
Goss has Cav on his wheel then Farrar.
Goss goes and Cav moves out to the right hand side but he's losing ground!
Farrar is coming through the middle!
Cav is coming back.
But Farrar takes it!
Nice win for the America ahead of Cavendish and Davis, Weylandt.
Cavendish gave himself too much to do there but by finishing second he takes the points jersey.
Davis got third, Weylandt then Goss.
A great finish to a great Vuelta. Nibali crosses the line and seal his first Vuelta and first grand tour win, a very special moment for the young Italian.
Thanks for joining us today and throughout the entire race, we hope you've enjoyed the coverage. Remember, we're covering the USA road champs live later today.
1 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Transitions 2:02:24
2 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team HTC-Columbia
3 Allan Davis (Aus) Astana
4 Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Quick Step
5 Matthew Goss (Aus) Team HTC-Columbia
6 Grega Bole (Slo) Lampre-Farnese Vini
7 Manuel Cardoso (Por) Footon-Servetto
8 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Cofidis, le crédit en ligne
9 Juan-Jose Haedo (Arg) Team Saxo Bank
10 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre-Farnese Vini
Final general classification
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 87:18:31
2 Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia 0:00:43
3 Peter Velits (Svk) Team HTC-Columbia 0:03:04
4 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:04:45
5 Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervélo Test Team 0:04:54
6 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2R-La Mondiale 0:05:05
7 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervélo Test Team 0:06:08
8 Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin-Transitions 0:06:18
9 Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 0:07:44
10 David Garcia Dapena (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia 0:09:39