Stage 21: San Sebastián de los Reyes - Madrid
Highest point: 720m
Category: Road stage
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.
Spain's hopes of a presence in the bunch lie with three-time world champion Óscar Freire. With Alejandro Valverde out of the picture, Freire will also carry his nation's hopes into the Worlds, where he's aiming to become the first rider to win four rainbow jerseys. As he showed when he outpaced the pack at Milan-San Remo, the Rabobank sprinter still has a formidable kick. Indeed, the 34-year-old Spaniard reckons his health is as good now as it ever has been, since he's put long-term injury concerns behind him. Although he's never finished the Vuelta in seven appearances, Freire is likely to do so this year, because there are two weeks rather than the usual one between the last stage here and the World Championship Road Race in Melbourne.
Matt White says:
"It seems a bit weird to have so many sprints in the final week of a race this tough. I'd better have a closer look at these profiles before I pick the team, because I was going to give some of the younger guys a ride."
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