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Vuelta a España stage 18 – Live coverage

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Good morning and welcome to our live coverage from stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana. It's the final day of racing in the Vuelta, and probably our final live coverage event of 2020, but we'll be here throughout the day to offer you comprehensive coverage. 

The stage into Madrid has been modified but we'll still head for the city and we're expecting a bunch sprint. The riders will roll out in about 20 minutes or so.

We're starting at the Hipódromo de la Zarzuela and the rider will tackle 139.6km of racing. There are no categorized climbs to speak of but there is an intermediate sprint in the second half of the race. That said, we're expecting this to come down to a bunch sprint, and for Primoz Roglic to come home and take his second Vuelta title in two years.

The Jumbo Visma mechanics have been busy overnight, putting these touches to the bikes ahead of the final stage.

Here's how the race stands coming into today's stage:

1 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma 69:17:59

2 Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers 00:00:24

3 Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Pro Cycling 00:00:47

4 Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation 00:02:43

5 Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar Team 00:03:36

6 Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain McLaren 00:07:16

7 David De la Cruz Melgarejo (Spa) UAE Team Emirates 00:07:35

8 David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 00:07:45

9 Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 00:08:15

10 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 00:09:34

It's highly unlikely that we'll see any changes today within the overall standings, so unless there's a major fall, that's the top-ten for the final of the race. Roglic lost the race lead twice in the race, but was  no lower than fourth at any point, and comes away with a fitting end to his season. He's arguably been the rider of the year. 

Vuelta a Espana 2020

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Only a few more media obligations to go...

We'l be rolling out in about five or six minutes and then there's a short neutralized zone. However we shouldn't expect much in the way of racing until later on in the stage.

So now's a great time to catch up with all the action yesterday, which saw David Gaudu win his second stage of the race and move up to 8th overall. We also saw Richard Carapaz go down fighting with a late attack on the final climb. Here's our report from stage 17.

And we're off and running on the final stage of this  year's Vuelta a Espana.

The Madrid Challenge has just finished and we have a winner. If you want to know who it is, you'll need to click here.

Back to this race and the riders are still pottering through the neutralized zone. 

Our women's cycling editor, Kirsten Frattini, has written this hugely important piece on the salary problems that female riders are currently facing. The numbers are truly shocking.

Data from the Cyclists' Alliance has revealed that the wage disparity is growing between the highest and lowest paid riders, and that the number of female professional riders receiving zero salary has increased from 17 per cent in 2019 to 25 per cent in 2020. 

Back again to this race, and the riders have completed the neutralized zone, so we're officially racing the final stage of this year's race. 138km to go.

The race organisers have told us that Davide Formolo has not started today, with the Italian heading home for the birth of his child.

No action as the bunch takes it easy but the pace will start to pick up later in the stage.

David Gaudu took his second stage of the race on Saturday and as a result, he rides into Madrid in 8th overall. This has been his best Grand Tour to date and bodes well for his future. 

“I thought about it this morning. I thought to myself: why not today, why not me? In addition, the weather conditions pleased me. It was an instinctive day. This kind of day is exceptional." 

"I was already very happy, and even ecstatic, to have been able to win the first stage. Winning a second is the icing on the cake, and getting into the top 10 is also hitting the goals we set for ourselves. The Vuelta was already successful, but with two wins and a final top 10, it is even more so. We would have signed up for that from the start ”.

Read our full Gaudu story, right here.

Groupama-FDJ's David Gaudu

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Situation

124km to go and the bunch are all together. We'll have plenty of attacks once we reach the outskirts of Madrid.

118km to go and the bunch continue to roll along at a relaxing pace.

The bunch do five loops once they hit Madrid, and that's when we'll see the pace dramatically change. Ackermann, Bennett and Philipsen are all in the race, and candidates for the stage win.

At the front of the peloton and the Jumbo Visma riders are riding a few feet in front of the rest of the peloton. This is their second Grand Tour - both via Roglic - in two seasons and both leader and team have bounced back after what happened to them at the Tour de France.

The  top three on GC are now at the front, Roglic, Carapaz and Carthy. Fist-bumps all round between the top-three. 

Guillaume Martin then comes up and has his photo taken. He sealed the win in the mountains classification days ago and finishes 14th in this year's race. It's been another year of progression for the young Cofidis rider who has ridden back-to-back Grand Tours for the first time in his career. 

As the bunch trundle on, Carapaz is back by the Ineos car and sharing a joke with the   occupants of the vehicle but with 90km to go we are closing  in on the outskirts of Madrid.

Israel Start-Up Nation are riding together near the front. This is Rory Sutherland's final race as a pro. He's had a long career and became one of the most respected domestiques in the second phase of his time in Europe. 

85km to go and the bunch continue to roll along at a gentle pace. There are some clouds overhead but they should hold off before the finsh.

After all the photo ops the peloton is back together and the chatter has gone out of the bunch. 75km to go and the pace is starting to increase. 

So few chances for the sprinters in this race and at the moment Bennett, Philipsen, and Ackermann all have one stage each. Today will most likely be decided between the trio  but the respective leadouts have plenty of time to prepare before the sprint.

65km to go and the peloton are settling into a bit more of a steady pace. Each lap of the final circuit is 5.9km in length and we're about 30km from starting the final phase of the stage.

Here's what Roglic had to say this morning:

My whole team is special and we’ve done special things all year. This Vuelta they’ve pushed even when we’ve not been in our best moments. We’ve done our best and it’s been amazing. I’m really happy and glad that I’m part of this team. 

When you win more you learn more about how to enjoy it but it’s always a different story and a different race, so you can’t always compare it [to last year. It’s definitely amazing to be in the place that we’re in.

The  peloton has started to line out with 56km to go. 

Froome has been handed an award for his 2011 Vuelta win. Here's what he had to say.

“It’s a really special victory. I have really special memories obviously looking back to this period, but also the way I was told about this victory, when I woke up the day after my big accident last year,” Froome told reporters at the Vuelta.

“I was in ICU still when I was told: ‘Congratulations, you’ve won La Vuelta.’ That was a really strange feeling. It was such a special race to me. It’s where I first discovered myself as a Grand Tour rider and a GC contender. It gave me confidence to then go on to the Tour de France, to keep targeting Grand Tours. I certainly hope next season I’ll be here in a different capacity.”

46km to go and we're now racing into Madrid. Still all together as Jumbo Visma set the pace.

38km to go and we're about 9km from the finishing loops, of which there are five.

QuickStep have lined out near the front, next to Jumbo, so we almost have a race.

EF and Burgos (best jersey in the race) have moved to the front as well. UAE are almost interested and they have Philipsen here for the final sprint.

35km to go and even Astana are getting in on the action. Jumbo are being swarmed at the moment.

They're kicking off a bit early today, but Jumbo move back  to the front and set the pace but almost every team in the race wants to be at the front in order to protect their leader and or sprinter.

31km to go so we're almost on the final circuit. 

Some riders clearly have early flights that they want to make as Astana again move up. Are they trying to get Vlasov into the top ten because Valverde is just a few seconds ahead. But Wellens is the first rider to put in an attack with 30km to go.

Wellens is clear with two riders but QuickStep are hunting this move down with 29km to go.

Here's our story on Chris Froome and his new trophy.

Chris Froome

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Willem Smit and Wellens have gone clear with 29km to go but they only have a few seconds on the bunch. 

Astana are going for this. They think Vlasov can beat Valverde here.

Wellens and Smit continue to work well together but they're not even being given a time gap. 25km to go.

Valverde, with the intermediate sprint coming up, is well aware of what's happening and he moves up. He will want Wellens and Smit to stay out there.

Astana have sat up but Valverde is still marking Vlasov. 

23km to go and the drama is over as Vlasov stays put and doesn't make a move. 

Gonzalo Serrano has joined the party, so that's three leaders at the front of the race with 22km to go. Still no time gap though. 

21km to go and the gap is at about 6 seconds. 

UAE and Bora are leading the peloton at the moment with the trio out front enjoying roughly a 10 second lead. 19km to go.

We've got four riders out front now with an Astana rider in the mix. It's Dmitriy Gruzdev!

So we've got Wellens, Smit, Serrano and Dmitriy Gruzdev leading the final stage of the Vuelta with 17.5km to go.

The four leaders, thanks to Dmitriy Gruzdev, have 21 seconds with 16.4km to go. 

QuickStep, UAE and Bora hit the front and with 13.8km to go the break have a lead of 21 seconds. 

The four leaders are playing their part and putting up a decent fight at this point with their lead now at 23 seconds with 12.6km to go.

All of QuickStep are on the front now as they look to win the final stage of the race with Bennett, just like they did at the Tour de France a few months ago. 11.1km to go and the gap is at 8 seconds.

The entire peloton are in one long line. 9.7km left.

The leaders have just 8 seconds left.

Dmitriy Gruzdev takes a huge pull on the front of the break but the gap is down to just 3 seconds. 

The gap moves back out to six seconds with 6.8km to go.

Just over one lap remaining as QuickStep make the catch. All back together with 6.2km to go.

Bennett is in a great position but Ackermann and Philipsen are close. 

Carapaz is moving up so he can stay out of trouble. UAE them push their way to the front with 4.6km to go.

QuickStep have two riders on the front and then three more with Bennett a bit further back. UAE look strong right now. 3.7km to go.

Kanter is in the mix too with Sunweb now on the front. That's well timed.

Back come QuickStep and UAE. 2.2km to go. 

Now it's Bora who are all over the front before the final crucial corner. 

Bora are going to lead this out with 1.km to go.

Bennett looks isolated. 

Ackermann has two riders left as the sprint starts.

Bennett and Ackerman go first.

Photo finish needed. Did Bennett come around him in time?

That was so close.

Pascal Ackermann wins stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana.

Primoz Roglic wins the 2020 Vuelta a Espana.

Kanter was third on the line, and Philipsen fourth. 

Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 3:28:13
2Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck-Quickstep
3Max Kanter (Ger) Team Sunweb
4Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE Team Emirates
5Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Team Sunweb
6Emmanuel Morin (Fra) Cofidis
7Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (RSA) NTT Pro Cycling
8Lorrenzo Manzin (Fra) Total Direct Energie
9Robert Stannard (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
10Jon Aberasturi Izaga (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA

Final general classification after stage 18
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma 72:46:12
2Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:24
3Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Pro Cycling 0:01:15
4Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation 0:02:43
5Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar Team 0:03:36
6Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain McLaren 0:07:16
7David De la Cruz Melgarejo (Spa) UAE Team Emirates 0:07:35
8David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:07:45
9Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:08:15
10Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:09:34

Here's our race report from today's stage. 

And here's some Ackermann being humble and polite:

“I wasn’t sure who won at the finish and I was asking Sam who won. We were both really unsure and we had to wait some minutes until we got the message,” Ackermann said at the finish.

“The team are so happy about the victory and I have to say thank you to my teammates. I think that today was an amazing leadout. You could see it on the television. I’m really happy to take the victory, and I’m just so happy.”

Ackermann was also humble when asked about whether he was the best sprinter in the race due to the fact that he had won more then Bennett and his other rivals.

“No, I’m only counting one stage because in the other Sam was relegated [after crossing the line first] and so I think we all have one victory and we can all be happy with that."

Thanks for joining us for the Vuelta a Espana. 

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