- The Vuelta ends with a late 96.7km stage culminating with a sprint finish in Madrid
- Current race leader Remco Evenepoel is expected to take the red jersey
Race situation: Lucas Plapp (IGD) and Julius Johansen (IWG) are off the front with 20 seconds
Hello and welcome to our live coverage of stage 21 of the Vuelta a España!
We're 3km from the end of the neutralised zone, and we have a 96.7km roll into Madrid ahead of us.
Earlier today we saw the conclusion of the 2022 Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, where Annemiek van Vleuten took the overall victory.
It's a sunny morning in Las Rozas, and the peloton appears in jovial spirits for what will predominantly be a processional stage.
🏁 ¡Salida neutralizada de la última etapa! 🏁 Neutralised start of the final stage of #LaVuelta22! ❤️𝑳𝒂𝒔 𝑹𝒐𝒛𝒂𝒔 pic.twitter.com/um5cjgYIRySeptember 11, 2022
A reminder of the current order at the top of the general classification – Remco Evenepoel now leads Mas by 2:05, and Ayuso by 5:08. Barring disaster, he will roll into Madrid as the race's first Belgian winner.
Read our complete rundown of the general classification order after stage 20 here.
90km to go
The flag has dropped and the peloton now rolls through the neutralised start and are on their way to Madrid.
An image of the jersey holders rolling out of Las Rozas.
There doesn't seem to be much urgency following the end of the neutralisation, as Christian Prudhomme takes the time to chat to some of the riders at the front of the peloton.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) offers a fist bump to the race director's car - no doubt an acknowledgement of his very last Vuelta a España
The peloton is now ramping up its pace as the red car gently pulls away, but still very much sticks to a crawl as spectators line the roadside.
Remco Evenepoel is riding a celebratory red S-Works Tarmac SL7 on today's stage.
Check out our review of the bike here.
Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl): “[My father] always told me that he finished last [113th out 114 finishers in La Vuelta 93]. As we were next to our swimming pool at home eating a barbecue with my girlfriend I was joking and telling him it would be funny if I would finish first and he would have been last. It seems like it’s going to be like this. I’m gonna enjoy as much as possible. I think entering Madrid will really give me goosebumps, and then just arrive at the finish line.”
10km into the stage
Things are rolling along well on the way to Madrid.
Movistar is at the back of the peloton giving bottles to the crowd.
Quickstep is going to the front of the bunch to take some photos. Now is the time to celebrate!
There's 80km left in the stage and the riders are chatting and talking about what was a wild three weeks.
Here's what Evenepoel had to say about his overall win yesterday:
"I don’t know what’s going through my head and my body right now. It’s amazing. All the critics and the bad comments I received after last year, I think I answered with my pedals. I’ve been working so hard to come here in the best shape possible. To now win this Vuelta is just amazing. It’s actually the first Grand Tour I start healthy. I’m really happy to be the first guy to win a Grand Tour for Patrick [Lefevere] as a CEO and for Belgium, for my country, for my teammates, for my parents, for my fiancee… I’ve been away from home so many days, so many weeks, so many months. And it’s all thanks to them as well. I was really stressed this morning. I didn’t sleep too much last night. You know what’s coming to you and it was a super tough stage. I’m just super happy that I’ve won La Vuelta. Today I responded with the legs. I didn’t think about winning the stage, I just wanted to win the general classification. I only had to follow, to control and believe in my power. In the end the race was super hard but we did really well. Yes, it’s the most beautiful day of my life. It’s an amazing year. Winning a Monument [Liège-Bastogne-Liège], winning San Sebastian again, winning two stages and the GC, and then getting married in the winter… I think it’s the best year I can imagine and wish for."
Luke Plapp (Ineos Grenadiers) talked to reporters before the start: “I found a new level here, mate. It’s been a brutal 21 days, it’s really special to be here and I’m absolutely glad I’ve made it to Madrid. [I learned that] I have to train a lot harder, I’ve suffered for three weeks, but look, I’ve loved every bit of it and hopefully this is just the first of a lot of Grand Tours for me. And I hope to be back in La Vuelta next year. It’s nice to see Carlos [Rodríguez] and Remco [Evenepoel] and Ayuso do so well as young riders, and hopefully one day I can be like them too. So it is very nice and empowering for me, looking forward.”
Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) is making history here at the Vuelta. Five days before his 20th birthday, he's the the second teenager to podium at a grand tour.
The peloton is about to enter Madrid. This should pick up soon.
Juan Ayuso: "I'm thinking about what just happened and I just want to enjoy it. It’s amazing. I have come to this Vuelta to learn, it is my first Grand Tour, at 19 years old. At the beginning of the year I wasn't even thinking of racing here. And to go from that to being on the podium is incredible. I have learned to suffer. I've never had to mentally endure as much as a Grand Tour requires, and I think that for next year it will make me a much better rider. I felt good and I wanted to win the stage, and we have worked for it. Marc Soler has given his life for me, so did Jan Polanc, Almeida has done an incredible job... In the end, two riders came ahead and in the group I was first, but it’s alright. I'm on the podium and I don't have any bad taste in my mouth for not having won today. [The Worlds] will come later, now I want to enjoy this."
56km to go
The crowds are out today to cheer on the riders as they enter the finishing circuits.
Alejandro Valverde (MOV) is getting special recognition as this is his final grand tour. What a moment for Spain. He truly is a legend here.
Now that the riders are in the circuits, they'll do one procession for a lap and then it's game on.
50km to go
The first attack comes from Burgos.
But the pace is high and the sprint teams are already coming to the front to control things.
Lucas Plapp (IGD) and Julius Johansen (IWG) are the next to attack.
Lawson Craddock (BEX) goes down! It looks like he hit a water bottle in the road.
Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo): “I don’t know [how different it is to win the final stage of a Grand Tour in a prestigious venue], I’ve never done it! It’s never easy to win and today is a flat sprint. It’s a lot of sprinters in the peloton. It’s not easy. Everyone still has to perform 100% to make it possible to sprint and to sprint for the win. Of course it would be nice [to win the final stage with the green jersey] but it takes a lot of focus and really hard work from the boys to make that possible. It would be a nice dream coming true but I think no matter what happens today we can be happy with this Vuelta.”
Alpecin-Deceuninck and BikeExchange are leading the peloton.
Xabier Mikel Azparren (EUS) is in the gap trying to bridge across to the two off the front.
22km to go
The two off the front are extending their lead to 25 seconds. There's 20 km left in the stage.
Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates) took the final stage in 2020: "It was a really special win for me. It was in 2020 the last race of the season. I’m still looking for my victory this year in the Vuelta, why not in Madrid? It would be really nice to finish off with a victory. I think we are all a bit tired now after all the climbs. I think today will be all about the legs and I hope I still have some power left and I can do it. It will be a bit of a fight for the last corner and then it’s all about the legs because it’s an uphill finish. It will be a good one. For me, today we have Molano and Ivo Oliveira so we have a super good train. I think Greenedge [BikeExchange-Jayco] also has a good one. We will fight for it."
15km to go
John Degenkolb (Team DSM) won here in Madrid twice. Once in 2012 and the other in 2015: "It brings great memories. It’s been 10 years ago already. I watched the stage from 2012. It was a great atmosphere in the team. We were fighting very hard every day for the victories and in the end it was five victories when we got to Madrid. It’s something really special I think. Looking back, this also gives ma lot of motivation. Of course now I’m in a different position. Still, I want to give my best and I want to compete today for the victory. Back in the days, I was one of the youngest [in the team] and now I’m the oldest. My teammate [Marco Brenner] is 20 years old and my former teammate Koen de Koert had his birthday a week ago, he’s 40 now. The perspective is changing and now I’m trying to help the younger guys and it’s also a really nice thing. Yes, [I Will come back].I really enjoy being in the Vuelta, it’s a special race for me."
8km to go
Alpecin-Deceuninck is at the front. Trek is also there and so is UAE.
It's anyone's game right now. The speeds are high and the duo is still off the front.
The two riders off the front won't be out there much longer! Just a few more kms to go.
The peloton waited until the very last km to bring back the two off the front.
Alpecin-Deceuninck is in the lead.
Now UAE is at the front.
Pedersen is coming to the line!
But Juan Sebastián Molano (UAD) just pips him at the line!
That's the wrap of the Vuelta a Espana! Remco Evenepoel (QST) is the overall winner of the 2022 edition.
And that's the 2022 Vuelta a Espana in the books. Remco Evenepoel (QST) is the overall winner, taking the red jersey 2'02" ahead of Enric Mas (MOV). He also picks up the best young rider jersey. Mads Pedersen (TFS) wins the green jersey competition and Richard Carapaz (IGD) is the winner of the polka dot jersey. Marc Soler (UAD) wins the overall most combative rider.
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