Stage 21: Rivas - Madrid
Proycling's Analysis: In the style of the Tour’s final day, this stage starts on the edge of the Spanish capital and heads into its centre, where the riders tackle a finishing circuit based on the Paseo de la Castellana, the setting for the World Road Race Championships in 2005. The finish is in the Plaza de Cibeles. The rule of the sprinters is almost absolute on this closing stage.
Culture Vulture: One of a series of new towns surrounding the capital, Rivas Vaciamadrid has boomed over the past two decades, its population rising from almost nothing to more than 60,000.
Local hero: Little more than 20km southwest from the start is Pinto. It’s the birthplace and home of the only currently active rider to have won all three major tours, Alberto Contador. He’s yet to confirm if he’ll defend his Vuelta title.
Vuelta Retro: The last time the race didn’t finish in Madrid was in 1993 when Alex Zülle won the final day time trial into Santiago de Compostela.
Neil Stephens says: The theoretical sprinters will be gone to prepare for the world championships so control of the race will be up in the air a bit. The cards will all be dealt by now in terms of the general classification.
Comparing the feeling between coming into Paris and Madrid is funny. I've always said that a major stage race is a major stage race, whether it's the Vuelta, Giro or the Tour. It doesn't really matter. That is, until I did the Tour de France and then you realise that the Tour is a bigger thing. The Tour is the world platform of cycling and the first time I rode onto the Champs-Élysées I had goose bumps for the first couple of laps before I switched back onto the race.
Riding into Madrid for the finish of the Vuelta I didn't get the same sort of a chill although I did on the first occasion we were going to win it - all these people from ONCE, the blind school, were lining the streets for kilometres wearing yellow t-shirts. That was a buzz. Generally it's not the same feeling as it is for the Tour but you've got to remember that you've been dragging your butt around Spain for three weeks; it's like a writer finishing his novel. There's still a buzz in that.
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