Degenkolb made it five; it was no surprise – we all knew the break was doomed. But it was good for the estimated 100,000 spectators around the course – and for the TV. It’s never a chore to watch the best riders in the world set off from Cercedilla and hammer round the streets of a beautiful city.
There were photo ops aplenty on the finish circuit; beautiful buildings, street cafes, fountains – not just ‘boys on bikes.’
And we won a watch with the finale; ambling onto a grandstand with 100 metres to go as the last lap desperation reached fever pitch.
Degenkolb is very strong, he had to go from a long way out but held on like a master to best Viviani and ‘Benna.’ The only problem was that to get to Madrid we had to endure possibly the worst parcours for any Grand Tour, ever.
But it was worth it, once we were among the trees, fountains and grandeur of Madrid it was great just to be there and part of the show.
The speed in the closing laps was scary, especially when Sky did a big spell with two laps to go.
But it’s not been a good Vuelta for them – with Ben Swift’s second to Bennati on stage 18 as good as it got. Chris Froome is a highly talented rider, but he wasn’t in the same race.
It’s possible to ride the Giro and the Vuelta to win, but not back-to-back Grand Tours. It’ll be a surprise if he does anything in the Worlds – he must be exhausted.
But Ivan tells me that the word is already up on the forums that Spaniards were all ‘kitted up’ – and that’s why they were able to beat Christopher.
It was the same back in the spring when Astana had a strong Ardennes campaign; ‘dodgy Eastern team.’
But when Sky tow the field around the Tour not an eyebrow is raise or question asked.
If you did then you were a nasty word which starts with ‘c’ – and then Sky banned those questions altogether. Damned Kazakhs and Spaniards; why can’t they be ‘clean’ like us Brits? (and Yanks, of course).
But anyway – Sky are not alone in not having the race they wanted or expected – it’s been a grim race for Rabobank. At their level, they can’t be happy with ‘two riders in the top ten’ however much they may say they are.
Euskaltel, AG2R, Lampre, Cofidis, Vacansoleil, FDJ, Liquigas, Lotto and Andalucia all drew blanks. But at least the latter rode the breaks and got the TV time.
It was a brilliant Vuelta for Caja Rural – Piedra’s win on Covadonga was beyond their wildest dreams. Despite their being a ‘second tier’ team, their presentation is spot on – jerseys, bikes, bus all cut the mustard.
A brilliant Vuelta for Argos , though – Degenkolb was just too strong for everyone and five stages will have done his and the team’s UCi points totals no harm.
Fred Kessiakoff saved Astana’s Vuelta with his stunning TT win, Bennati did the same for The Shack and Cataldo for QuickStep.
Garmin can take heart from Andrew Talansky’s seventh spot – we predict big things for him.
BMC took three stages – they’ll settle for that.
And GreenEDGE must be very satisfied with Simon Clark’s stage win and his Montana overall win.
Katusha and Movistar can’t be unhappy either – no Vuelta win, but GC podiums, stage wins, race leadership and huge acclaim for ‘never say die’ riding.
It was a race from start to finish, not a procession; none of the top three ‘settled for the podium’ – it was a pitched battle right to the top of the Bola.
And whatever you may think of Contador, he has class – bowing in respect to Valverde and Rodriguez as he shook their hands on the podium.
A great end to a great Grand Tour.
Results - La Vuelta a España 2012 - Stage 21
1 John Degenkolb (Ger) Argos-Shimano 2:44:57
2 Elia Viviani (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
3 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Radioshack-Nissan
4 Allan Davis (Aus) Orica – GreenEdge
5 Koldo Fernandez (Spa) Garmin – Sharp
6 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team
7 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
8 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
9 Raymond Kreder (Ned) Garmin – Sharp
10 Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
11 Pim Ligthart (Ned) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling Team
12 Leonardo Fabio Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
13 Matti Breschel (Den) Rabobank Cycling Team
14 Manuel Antonio Leal Cardoso (Por) Caja Rural
15 Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) BMC Racing Team
16 Denys Kostyuk (Ukr) Lampre – ISD
17 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
18 Egoitz Garcia Echeguibel (Spa) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
19 Ben Swift (GBr) Sky Procycling
20 Dominique Rollin (Can) FDJ-Big Mat
21 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team
22 Andrey Zeits (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
23 Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky Procycling
24 Koen De Kort (Ned) Argos-Shimano
25 Gatis Smukulis (Lat) Katusha Team
26 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team
27 Davide Vigano (Ita) Lampre – ISD
28 Dario Cataldo (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
29 Michel Kreder (Ned) Garmin – Sharp
30 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin – Sharp
31 Nico Sijmens (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
32 Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Movistar Team
33 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Movistar Team
34 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
35 Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
36 Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) Lotto Belisol Team
37 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team
38 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
39 Andre Fernando S. Martins Cardoso (Por) Caja Rural
40 Dennis Van Winden (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
41 Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
42 Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Katusha Team
43 Martijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin – Sharp
44 Daniel Teklehaymanot (Eri) Orica – GreenEdge
45 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Radioshack-Nissan
46 Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling Team
47 Mickaël Buffaz (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
48 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre – ISD
49 Jan Bakelants (Bel) Radioshack-Nissan
50 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Liquigas-Cannondale
51 Benjamin Noval Gonzalez (Spa) Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank
52 Winner Anacona Gomez (Col) Lampre – ISD
53 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team
54 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank
55 Jesus Hernandez Blazquez (Spa) Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank
56 Alexsandr Dyachenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
57 Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
58 Juan Jose Lobato Del Valle (Spa) Andalucia
59 Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
60 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre – ISD
61 Serge Pauwels (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
62 Stef Clement (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
63 Grischa Niermann (Ger) Rabobank Cycling Team
64 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
65 Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Orica – GreenEdge
66 Marcos Garcia (Spa) Caja Rural
67 Alexandre Geniez (Fra) Argos-Shimano
68 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank
69 Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) Liquigas-Cannondale
70 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Procycling
71 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling
72 Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
73 Florent Barle (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
74 Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol Team
75 Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Garmin &