Good afternoon and welcome to the final stage of the 2018 Vuelta a Espana. In about three hours we expect to see the crowning of Simon Yates in Madrid as the race winner. Meanwhile, let’s take on a flat 100.9 kilometers from Alcorcon to Madrid.
The stage has started off with a neutralized section. Before the start, Igor Anton (Dimension Data) was introduced to the crowd to much applause. This is his last day of racing, as he is retiring when it is over.
Here is the Top Ten in GC coming into today’s stage, and we certainly expect it to also be the final Top Ten:
1 Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) 79:44:30
2 Enric Mas (Quick Step Floors) 0:01:46
3 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) 0:02:04
4 Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) 0:02:54
5 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 0:04:28
6 Thibaut Pinot (Groupama FDJ) 0:05:57
7 Rigoberto Uran (EF-Education First) 0:06:07
8 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 0:06:51
9 Ion Izagirre (Bahrain Merida) 0:11:09
10 Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) 0:11:11
Usually the riders all clump around the race director's car during the neutraized section, but today everything is a lot more laid back. There is much chatting going on in the field. Everyone is happy to have made it this far!
Alejandro Valverde and Enric Mas are riding side-by-side. Both highly successful but at totally different stages of their careers -- and with a 15 years' age difference!
The battle for the Points ranking was not a close one this year.
1 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 131
2 Simon Yates (Mitchelton Scott) 104
3 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) 103
4 Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) 99
5 Thibaut Pinot (Groupama FDJ) 95
The blue polka dot jersey of the Mountain ranking brought with a hard fight, but Thomas De Gendt managed to hang on.
1 Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) 95
2 Bauke Mollema (LottoNL-Jumbo) 83
3 Luis Mate (Cofidis) 64
4 Ben King (Dimension Data) 56
5 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) 45
The Vuelta also offers the Combination ranking, where the lowest number of points wins.
1 Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) 9
2 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) 11
3 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 18
4 Thibaut Pinot (Groupama FDJ) 18
5 Enric Mas (Quick Step Floors) 22
Now Nairo Quintana and Miguel Lopez are at the front of the field, deep in conversation.
The flag has dropped and the race has officially started. And who is the first to break away?
Well, of course, nobody....
Last but not least, the Team classification, with a fairly dominant winner.
1 Movistar 239:45:40
2 Bahrain Merida 0:45:36
3 Bora-hansgrohe 0:47:57
4 Astana 0:48:10
5 EF Education First 0:58:49
Steve Cummings of Dimension Data has certainly not had the season he hoped for – a change of racing programme, no wins, no Tour de France, no World championships. Nor has he done anything in particular in the Vuelta, his only Grand Tour of the year. But he is determined to use this frustrating year to good purposes, telling Cyclingnews, “I think it’s just given me a chance to explore everything really, lots of new ideas.”
The Madrid Challenge ended today, a two-day women’s WorldTour race. Giorgia Bronzini (Cylance) won the sprint today in this, the very last race of her long and successful career. The overall title went to Ellen van Dyjk (Sunweb).
92km remaining from 100km
We still have 92 km to go. At a snail's pace most of the way.
Steven Kelderman and the podium have an off and on relationship, and it looks like this year it will end with an “off”. Yesterday the LottoNL-Jumbo rider slipped off the podium from third to fourth in GC, but admitted, “the others were better”.
All 8 MItchelton Scott riders at the front, arm in arm.
Movistar had big plans for the Vuelta with a three-pronged attack with Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa. The latter didn’t even start, having suffered serious injuries in a crash at San Sebastian. Valverde rode consistently well, until Saturday, when a three minute loss saw him tumble from second to fifth overall. Quintana, while finishing eighth in GC, just never seem to come into the swing of things. He was philosophical about it: “In the difficult moments you also learn and they force you to reflect on what you do, on how difficult winning is, and how much of an achievement it really is when you do it.”
MItchelton-Scott is wearing new kit today, replaying the usual yellow with red, to honour the red jersey in their ranks.
It was “all or nothing” Saturday for Astana’s Miguel Angel Lopez, and it turned out to be “all”. An aggressive ride saw him take second on the stage and move up to third in GC. It is his second Grand Tour third place finish, having already done so in the Giro this year.
We see lots of grinning faces amongst those new Mitchelton Scott kit!
The fingers are obviously tired from the many mountain stages of this race. Who is Steven Kelderman, you ask? We ask ourselves that too. Is he perhaps related to Wilco Kruijswijk?
Or shall we just pretend we wrote Steven Kruijswijk in the first place, which is of course what we intended to do.
We do have a race going on, in case you have forgotten. There are still 71 km to go and Mitchelton Scott is at the head of the field which is, surprise surprise, all together.
23 years old and the first Grand Tour – and Enric Mas (Quick Step) is finishing second. A stunning performance by the Stage 20 winner, a win which propelled him to that podium place. There he replaces another Spaniard, by the way, Alejandro Valverde – 15 years his senior.
A rider has escaped from the field! Don't worry, it is Igor Anton of Dimension Data, who this morning announced that he will retire from pro cycling after this stage. He has gone forward to say goodbye to the fans and to receive their acknowledgement.
The Giro d’Italia was a disaster for Simon Yates this year: falling from first place on stage 18 to 18th the next day, and finishing the race as 21st. But he says he has learned his lesson from that experience, and that is what has helped him to win the Vuelta.
Anton has led the race into Madrid, still with a lead on the field and applause from the fans.
The field crosses the finish line for the first time and now takes on 10 laps of the closing circuit course, with 59 km to go.
And real racing has started! Four riders hav jumped from the field.
There are now six riders in the break.
The six riders in the lead, with a 15 second gap, are Alessandro De Marchi (BMC Racing Team), Tiago Machado (Katusha Alpecin), Jetse Bol (Burgos-BH), Loïc Chetout and Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis) and Mikel Iturria (Euskadi-Murias).
The gap is already down to 6 seconds.
Of the 22 teams in the race, eight still have all eight riders going into this final stage: Astana, Mitchelton-Scott, Movistar, Dimension Data, EF, LottoNL-Jumbo, Caja Rural and Euskadi-Murias. Of the other teams, none has lost more than two riders. All of which means we have 158 riders today.
The break is over and everyone is together again, at a very high pace.
Over the finish line they go, seven more laps and 41 km.
The next three to try their luck in a break group are Diego Rubio (Burgos-BH), Joey Rosskopf (BMC Racing Team) and Nikita Stalnov (Astana).
They have been joined by a fourth rider, but we can't make out who it is.
The fourth man is Garikoitz Bravo (Euskadi-Murias). The quartet has 7 seconds on the field.
15 seconds now for the group, and 35.5km to go.
They have once again crossed the finish line and there are still 6 laps.
Bilbao of Astana punctures.
Bilbao is now back in the field. Not so easy when the pace is so high.
A high pace? They have been going over 50km/h the last 30 minutes!
Stalnov is out of the lead group, he had to stop with a puncture.
26 km and 12 seconds for the trio up front.
A Bora-hansgrohe rider is at the head of the chasing field. You know that Peter Sagan would love to win today, and at least take a stage win at this Vuelta.
Only four more laps to go!
The gap is now 11 seconds, and Trek Segafredo is now pulling the field. An EF rider just punctured.
Things are rally moving fast now. Three laps,17 km and still a handful of seconds' lead for Rosskopf, Bravo and Rubio.
The three leaders make teh u-turn and go under the 1 km marker.
We wonder how safe that will be when it is the final lap?
Two laps and 11.8 km to go.
The three up front are hanging doggedly on to the lead.
Another u-turn for the peloton, all come safely through.
The pack is close enough that the three leaders have started peering back over their shoulders.
They are cruising along at 61 km/h at the moment.
And that's it. With 7.2 km to go, the break is over. No mercy from here on!
An AG2R rider tries hi luck just after they cross the 1 km marker for the penultimate time.
The bell lap! 5.9 km to go! And the AG2R rider is caught.
Sky BMC, Astana and LottoNL-Jumbo at the head of the field.
EF, Sunweb and Quick Step moving up.
4 km and a u-turn. An easy way to lose position....
The field is strung out as they speed along.
All the sprinters' teams are moving up to the front, fighting for position.
66km/h at the moment!
The final u-turn -- all safely through. And the final km!
Viviani has lost his place. Much fighting for position and no sprint trains.
Van Poppel goes first and it then looks as if five riders will cross for a photo finish -- but it is Viviani who appears out of nowhere on the far left to take the win!
It was in fact a clear win for Viviani, who won by a bike length over Peter Sagan. Yet another second place here for the World Champion!
Third place went to Giacomo Nizzolo of Trek Segafredo, with Van Poppel fourth.
But of course the big winner is Simon Yates, who takes the overall victory
The top ten from the final stage:
1 Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors 2:21:28
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
3 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
4 Danny van Poppel (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
5 Marc Sarreau (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
6 Jon Aberasturi Izaga (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
7 Simone Consonni (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
8 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott
9 Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
10 Ryan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension Data
And the official final GC for the 2018 Vuelta a Espana:
1 Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott 82:05:58
2 Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors 0:01:46
3 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:02:04
4 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:02:54
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:04:28
6 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:05:57
7 Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 0:06:07
8 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:06:51
9 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 0:11:09
10 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:11:11
Congratulations to all those in the top ten, all who won stages and especially to all those who survived those three weeks to finish today.
Bora-hansgrohe sitting in a circle on their bikes. Sagan does not look really happy.
“It’s the third week of a really hard Vuelta. That made the difference. I lost a lot of power compared to the first part,” Viviani said after the stage. “For sure I’m worried to do the sprint from the front. I lost my lead-out with 2km to go on the roundabout, then I’m pretty confident I could come back from the back.
“On the last corner I told my guys I’m not there so they know to not go full gas. If they stretch out the group, maybe I’m too far back. From some mistake we always improve. When they saw I was not there they stopped, and I was able to come from the back. It was good, it was really good.
“I think we need to be proud of all the team in this Vuelta. When it was a mountain stage, we sacrificed everything for Enric, he’s pretty confident and he’s a class rider. I think it’s one of the most beautiful Vueltas we have ever done.”
This is Yates' seventh Grand Tour, his second as team leader. He led the Giro this year for many stages, before fading off near the end. That was his only Giro to date.
He has ridden the Tour de France three times, finishing twice. He was seventh overall in 2017.
This was his third Vuelta, finishing 6th in 2016 and 44th in 2017, before arriving on the top step of the podium this year.
Wilco Kelderman of Sunweb finished the race as 10th, not as high as he had hoped for, but he accepts it as good considering the injuries he had this season.
"I'm happy to finish this grand tour with such a a good feeling. It's been a hard season but to manage to be here and take a really good result is great." -
Viviani won three stages in the Vuelta, the only rider to do so. Four riders won two stages each: Rohan Dennis (BMC), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Ben King (Dimension Data) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama FdJ).
Bauke Mollema of Trek-Segafredo has been named the most competitive rider in the race.
We have the full results of the stage here, along with a brief report. A longer report will follow.
This was Peter Sagan's last day in the rainbow jersey as the 2017 World road champion. He surely didn't expect it to end like this. The Bora-hansgrohe rider has ridden in 11 Grand Tours, and won stages in seven of them, this being only one of four where he was shut out.
Thank you for following the Vuelta along with Cyclingnews. We hope you'll return for our live coverage of the upcoming UCI Road World Championships!
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