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Vuelta a España 2013: Stage 21

The 2013 Vuelta a Espana comes to an end today with the traditional march of triumph into Madrid.

The final stage of the 2013 Vuelta a Espana kicks off, and will end in Madrid with the crowning of Chris Horner as this year's champion.

The riders have taken off for the neutralized section on a hot summer day. We expect temperatures of 29°C or so.

144 riders took to the start today. We had a starting field of 197 riders three weeks ago, so we have lost 53, quite a large percentage.

Today's stage is a mere 109.6km jaunt from Leganes to Madrid. No climbing at all is on tap, in fact, this stage really couldn't be much flatter. It ends with 8 laps of a 5.7km circuit course and we can expect a mass sprint.

Chris Horner (RadioShack) finished second yesterday atop l'Angliru to cement his overall lead.

1     Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard     81:52:01      
2     Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team     0:00:37      
3     Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team     0:01:36      
4     Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha     0:03:22      
5     Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff     0:07:11      
6     Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale     0:08:00      
7     Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr     0:08:41      
8     Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi     0:09:51      
9     Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura     0:10:11      
10     Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha     0:13:11     

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) leads the points classification with a tidy gap ahead of Horner.

1     Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team     152      pts
2     Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard     126      
3     Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha     125      
4     Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff     122      
5     Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha     119      
 

Nicolas Edet of Cofidis has claimed the mountains classification, with who else but Horner second here as well.

1     Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team     152      pts
2     Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard     126      
3     Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha     125      
4     Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff     122      
5     Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha     119      
 

Horner can also claim the combination classification.

1     Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard     5      pts
2     Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team     13      
3     Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team     17      
4     Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff     17      
5     Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha     27      
 

The sharp start was a bit later than planned, but they are on the road and have already covered about 5km. No word about any escapes or action so far.

Best team coming into today's stage was Euskaltel-Euskadi.

1     Euskaltel - Euskadi     245:17:26      
2     Movistar Team     0:01:02      
3     Astana Pro Team     0:01:30      
4     Team Saxo - Tinkoff     0:09:56      
5     Caja Rural - Seguros RGA     0:33:51    

99km remaining from 109km

The field has now covered 10 kilometres. The final stage is tradtionally a relaxed, slow one, with lots of champagne drinking, photos and congratulations. At least until the closing circuit course starts!

There is usually little action in the final stage, so let's take a look back at this year's previous stages. But don't worry, we will be keeping an eye on today's stage as well!

The drama started this year before the race did, as Belkin pulled Theo Bos from its squad. The Dtch sprinter was shown to have a low cortisol level, and was withdrawn to comply with MPCC regulations on the matter.

The race opened up on August 24 with a team time trial from Vilanova de Arousa to Sanxenxo. Astana was the fastest on the 27.4 km. course, with Janez Brajkovic leading the team across the line. It certainly looked to be setting things up for Nibali to take the overall win eventually.
 

93km remaining from 109km

The peloton passes through Pinto, the hometown of Alberto Contador, who won the race last year. He is not here this year, but we understand he may be coming back to the Vuelta in 2014.

"Today @LaVuelta goes through my hometown,Pinto.This year I'm not there, but next yes!"

Did we say this final stage is usually a slow one? The field covered only 18km in the first half hour!

Stage 2 saw Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) attacking out of a small group in the last 100 meters to win the first mountaintop finish of this year's race. Nibali moved into the overall lead.

There was a surprise winner on the third stage: Chris Horner, who had missed much of the season due to injury. He also moved into the race lead, ahead of Nibali.  Who knew it was an omen of things to come?
 

There was a surprise winner on the third stage: Chris Horner, who had missed much of the season due to injury. He also moved into the race lead, ahead of Nibali.  Who knew it was an omen of things to come?
 

Congratulations to Euskaltel, which is the only team to finish the race with all nine riders. At the other end of things, we have Vacansoleil, which is coming into Madrid today with only three riders.

Dani Moreno of Katusha attacked on the final climb of the third stage to take the win in Fisterra. And the leader's jersey jumped from Horner back to Nibali.

75km remaining from 109km

RadioShack has moved to the head of the field to set the pace. A slow one, admittedly.

The sprinters finally had their chance on the fifth stage. Michael Matthews of Orica-GreenEdge claimed his first GT stage win in Lago de Sanabria. The day's break group had been caught with only 2.4km to go.

70km remaining from 109km

The field has managed to cover 39.6km so far -- with absolutely nothing happening....

Tony Martin (OPQS) nearly pulled off the unbelievable feat of a stage-long solo escape in stage six. He got away within the first km and was caught again with perhaps 20 meters to go to the finish line in Caceres. Michael Morkov of Saxo-Tinkoff took the win, but Martin was very much the man of the day.

65km remaining from 109km

In only 16 km the field will start on the Madrid circuit course, and we can hope for some action.

There was another maiden grand tour victory in the seventh stage. Zdenek Stybar (OPQS) outsprinted World Champion Philippe Gilbert for the win.
 

 

The peloton is riding on the highway here, on its way to the capital city. Everyone is still having a good time and enjoying things.

Horner is all red today! Not just his jersey, but also his helmet, sunglasses and bike, too.

Adam Hansen of Lotto Belisol hasn't missed a GT since the 2011 Vuelta. The Australian has now finished seven consecutive grand tours!

57km remaining from 109km

Things are still calm and the peloton is still on the highway.

Leopold König brought in the first grand tour stage win ever for Team NetApp-Endura in the eighth stage. The young Czech rider attacked near the end to take by far the biggest win in his career. It was a big day too for Roche, who took over the race lead.
 

Dani Moreno (Katusha) became the first man this race to win two stages, as he won stage 9 into Valdepeñas de Jaén. It was a double win for him as he also took over the leader's jersey, by one second over Roche.
 

53km remaining from 109km

All of the RadioShack bikes have red handlebar tape, in honour of Horner.

Horner flew back into contention on the tenth stage, storming his way up the Alto Hazallanas and once again taking back the race lead.
 

The peloton has hit the big city! RadioShack proudly leads the way into the finale.

There was never much question but that the race's only time trial, 38.8m around Tarazona, would be a contest between Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin. Former world hampion Cancellara proved to be the strongest, beating the reigning world champion by 37 seconds. A strong performance by Nibali saw him reclaim the overall lead.

 

Now it is Euskaltel's turn at the head of the field.

Euskaltel, the only team with all nine riders, led the field across the finish line for the first time.

Philippe Gilbert must have heaved a huge sigh of relief as he won the twelfth stage. It was his very first win in the world champion's jersey – one he must have thought might never come.
 

Euskaltel is still leading the way. The pace has picked up, but no real actin has started.

A breakaway stayed away in the 13th stage, and the surprise winner was 21-year-old Warren Barguil of Argos-Shimano.

39km remaining from 109km

The field crosses the finish iine again and we have our first attack!

The attacker is a familiar figure: Javier Aramendia of Caja Rural.

Daniele Ratto of Cannondale topped off a 45km solo flight with the stage win in the 14th stage. It was an unpleasantly cold and rainy day that saw 14 riders abandon.
 

35km remaining from 109km

Aramendia is still in the lead, but we don't have a time gap for him.

Not bad -- he has built up a 45 second gap!

Alexandre Geniez (FDJ.fr) won the Queen Stage this year. The Frenchman started out in the break group and ended up soloing in for the win.
 

33km remaining from 109km

Aramendia continues to hold on to his lead as everyone crosses the finah line again, but more riders are now attacking.

There was another French win on the 16th stage, and another win for Barguill. He outsprinted Sky's Rigoberto Uran, catching the Colombian in the final metres.
 

31km remaining from 109km

Aramendia will soon be joined by Alessandro Vanotti of Astana. In fact, they are together now.

The duo has only a 24 second gap.

It was Bauke Mollema's turn to win on the 17th stage. The cross-winds tore the field apart, but the Belkin rider conquered the wind – as befitting for a Dutchman.
 

30km remaining from 109km

The gap has jumped to 30 seconds now.

28km remaining from 109km

The duo crosses the finish line again. The field is not yet giving serious chase.

Vasil Kiryienka (Sky) won the 18th stage but the bigger news was that Nibali lost time to Horner on the final climb. The Italian managed to hold on to the overall lead by only three seconds.
 

Horner took control of things for good on the 19th stage, winning atop the Naranco to take a three-second lead over Nibali.

25km remaining from 109km

The gap is about 40 seconds now. The sprinter teams are keeping the pair on a long leash, not letting them really get away.

22km remaining from 109km

Aramendia and Vanotti go over the finish line again, with the peloton behind them at 35 seconds.

Horner clearly showed who was the boss on the dreaded l'Angliru stage. Kenny Eilssonde (FDJ.fr) took the win, but Horner finished second to seal the overall title, as Nibali once again couldn't hold with him on the climbs.

19km remaining from 109km

19 km to go and the leading pair is working well together. And no doubt dreaming of the win.

17km remaining from 109km

This time over the finish line the gap is at 31 seconds.

14km remaining from 109km

Chris Horner will be the oldest rider ever to win a grand tour. The American will turn 42 next month.

14km remaining from 109km

The gap has now dropped to 20 seconds.

It looks as if the leading duo won't be leading much longer.

They go over the finish line for the seventh time and the gap is now only 19 seconds.

BMC, Garmin, Cannondale all at the head of the field.

9km remaining from 109km

Only 9 km left in this year's Vuelta. Aramendia and Vanotti still have their lead.

The pace has most definitely picke dup back in the pack.

Aramendia and Vanotti cross the finish line for the next-to-last time and set off on the bell lap with a gap of only six seconds.

4km remaining from 109km

With just under 5 km to go, the two are caught.

The pace is very high now, with Sky having nearly its whole team at the head of the field.

Garmin moves up now, to ride for Tyler Farrar. And an Orica-GreenEdge rider can be spotted near the front as well.

109km remaining from 109km

Less than 3 km and the sprinter teams have it under control.

A NetApp-Endura rider jumps!

He seems to have been caught, though, and it is time for the sprint!

Orica-GreenEdge and ARgos are the two most obvious sprint trains.

Final km!

Vacansoleil,Orica, Argos-Shimano all at the front.

ARgos Shimano at teh front. Farrar goes for the win, but it is Michael Matthews of Orica-GreenEdge who has the strongest legs!

The Australian thus claims his second win of this race.

Horner shakes hands with all his teammates, thanking them for their hard work to bring him to this overall victory.

It looks like Farrar simply went too early, making it easy for Matthews to shoot on past him.

Farrar was second, and it looks like an Argos rider third.

Niklas Arndt of ARgos was indeed third on the stage.

Congratulations to Horner for taking the overall title, and becoming the oldest man ever to win a grand tour!

There were, as expected, no changes in the special jerseys. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins the point ranking; Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) the mountain ranking; Horner the combination ranking; and Euskaltel the team ranking.

O a personal note: That was my final grand tour for Cyclingnews, as I will be retiring in a few weeks. Many, many thanks to all our readers who have made it a wonderful nine years for me.

There have been a number of very young winners this year and Matthews is one of them. He is only 22, and won't turn 23 until later this month. Which makes him 19 years younger than Horner.

Horner receives his final red jersey and beams as he waves to the crowd.

Horner dashes back to the podium to accept the white jersey as winner of the combination ranking.

Edet pulls on the King of the Mountains jersey.

The top ten of the final stage:

1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 2:44:00
2 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp 0:00:00
3 Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano 0:00:00
4 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:00:00
5 Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida 0:00:00
6 Grega Bole (Slo) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:00:00
7 Adrien Petit (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:00:00
8 Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Team Argos-Shimano 0:00:00
9 Francesco Lasca (Ita) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 0:00:00
10 Robert Wagner (Ger) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:00
 

And the final GC for the 2013 Vuelta a Espana:

1 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard  84:36:04
2 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team  0:00:37
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team  0:01:36
4 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha  0:03:22
5 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff  0:07:11
6 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale  0:08:00
7 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr  0:08:41
8 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi  0:09:51
9 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura  0:10:11
10 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha  0:13:11

Congratulations again to Horner, all the stage winners and to all the riders who made it to the end!

That's a wrap! Join us again for live reports from the World Championships, coming up soon!

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