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Vuelta a España 2015: Stage 21


Live coverage of stage 21 of the Vuelta a Espana, 97.8 kilometres from Alcala de Henares to Madrid.

For long stretches during the third week of this Vuelta a Espana, it seemed as though the fight for the red jersey might come down to the final metres on Madrid’s Plaza de Cibeles, such were the tight margins separating Fabio Aru (Astana) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) at the top of the general classification. Instead, after Astana’s collective forcing yesterday finally broke Dumoulin’s resistance, Aru can enjoy a promenade in the Spanish capital this afternoon before he officially joins the elite club of Grand Tour winners.

The general classification looks like this after yesterday's dramatic afternoon in the Sierras of Madrid.

90km remaining from 98km

Fabio Aru is rarely the most effusive at starts and finishes during a Grand Tour, but with his three weeks' work essentially completed last night, he spoke at much greater length about his Vuelta a Espana victory in his winner's press conference. The full transcript is here.

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As Aru was feted on the podium yesterday evening, Dumoulin was left to compose his thoughts in the passenger seat of a team car while a scrum of television cameras and reporters gathered around him. Despite his disappointment, the Dutchman managed to put words on his emotions at the end of a brutal day. Alasdair Fotheringham has the full story here.

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The final stage of the Vuelta a Espana is not the only racing in Madrid this afternoon. The inaugural edition of La Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta ended in a sprint finish and Shelley Olds (Alé-Cipollini-Galassia) showcased her pre-Worlds form by claiming victory ahead of Giorgia Bronzini and Kirsten Wild.

71km remaining from 98km

Tom Dumoulin is wearing the white jersey of combined classification leader this afternoon, but only because the leader Joaquim Rodriguez and second-placed Fabio Aru already have leader's jerseys of their own. The Dutchman manages a smile and a wave for the television cameras despite his disappointment yesterday afternoon.

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The peloton is in the streets of Madrid with the Astana team of Fabio Aru lined up at the front, though a grounded television helicopter means that there are no live television pictures to capture the moment.

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The next time around, the bunch will face the day's lone intermediate sprint, which could well be the scene of frissons between Valverde and Rodriguez. The pace remains steady for now.

Away from the Vuelta a Espana, there was drama on the final stage of the Tour of Britain. Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) sealed overall victory, but though Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) was first across the line, he was relegated for deviating from his line from the sprint and the stage win was awarded to Elia Viviani (Sky).

There's been an infusion of speed at the Vuelta, meanwhile, as Movistar start to wind things up for Valverde ahead of the intermediate sprint.

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It appears that Joaquim Rodriguez had a mechanical problem before that intermediate sprint. The Catalan is being paced back up to the peloton by a platoon of his Katusha teammates.

The six riders dangling off the front of the peloton are Benjamin King (Cannondale-Garmin), Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Omar Fraile (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Laurent Pichon (FDJ), Carlos Verona (Etixx-Quick Step) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar). Giant-Alpecin will be happy to leave them linger out there with a shade under eight laps still to race.

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The leading sextet have never been truly out of sight of the peloton, and it's difficult to see how this stage can finish in anything other than a bunch sprint, given that Giant and Trek, in particular, have so committed to the chase.

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Verona is safely back on board by the time as the escapees come around to the finish area once again. The bunch remains 20 seconds or so behind.

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Fabio Duarte (Colombia) made an ambitious solo attempt to bridge to the breakaway during the lap just past, but his efforts have come to nothing as he is swept up by the bunch.

Ben King puts in a long, long turn on the front of the break as dusk begins to fall slowly over Madrid. Lampre-Merida have taken up the reins in the peloton, and there is an inevitability about the escapees' fate.

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Giant-Alpecin, Trek and BMC share the load at the front of the peloton, and their combined efforts have pegged the break's lead back to 12 seconds.

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Keisse is joined off the front by Alexis Gougeard, but they'll struggle to hold off the bunch at this rate.

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A delegation from Orica-GreenEdge moves to the front for Daryl Impey, while the sprinters scramble to organise themselves behind.

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GIant lead it out for Degenkolb...

Degenkolb goes early...

John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) wins the final stage of the Vuelta a Espana.

Fabio Aru (Astana) finishes safely in the peloton to seal final overall victory. He crosses the line accompanied by a platoon of Astana teammates, their arms raised.

Degenkolb won that sprint quite comfortably in the end, beating Jean-Pierre Drucker (BMC) and Danny van Poppel (Trek) to the line.

It seemed initially as though Degenkolb had gone too soon, but he kicked again when van Poppel came back at him to claim his first stage win of this Vuelta - a very timely reminder of his credentials ahead of the World Championships in Richmond two weeks from today.


Final general classification:

Thanks for joining our live coverage on Cyclingnews throughout this Vuelta a Espana. A full report, results and pictures will follow here, and as ever Alasair Fotheringham will have all the news and reaction from Madrid.

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