Vuelta a España • Stage21

Fuenlabrada - Madrid
Vuelta a España - 15 September 2019

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Thanks for following today's final stage with me, Felix Lowe, and for sticking with me throughout this third and final Grand Tour of the season. I've missed a few stages here and there, but it's been a pleasure whenever I've been in. What a race it was, too. Bodes well for future races - what with the likes of Pogacar, Roglic and the promising Spanish chap Valverde... I reckon they have a fine future ahead. Cheers everyone.


The final top 10: a Slovenian sandwich on the podium...


Today's top 10.


Theuns led that out on the left until Jakobsen powered through with Sam Bennett on his wheel. But the Dutch champion had too much for the Irish champion - and that's a fifth stage win for Deceuninck-QuickStep!


Primoz Roglic wins the Vuelta!


Victory for Fabio Jakobsen!


Now Trek-Segafredo come through for Theuns and Degenkolb...


It's all strung out as Cavagna leads the peloton into the final tight bend and through the flamme rouge. Stybar takes over with Richeze, Jakobsen's lead-out man, just behind.


Two more to go... Bennett is on the wheel of Jakobsen and on board the QuickStep train - a train he may well be using a lot next season if his expected move from Bora goes ahead...


Now Bora and QuickStep come back and relegate that Spanish duo from Astana.


Now Luis Leon Sanchez zips forward with Omar Fraile in a curious Astana move on the right of the road ahead of one of the tight 180-degree bends.


It's Tim 'The Tractor' Declercq back on the front pushing a big gear with Remi Cavagna in his wheel.


Bora, QuickStep and Sunweb are on the front as the bell sounds for this final lap. UAE Team Emirates and Lotto Soudal - for Tosh van der Sande? - are there, too.


The breakaway is caught!


The sun has pretty much set on Madrid now - and on the race. Just this final sprint to settle things. Just a few seconds now for the two leaders, Martinez and Rubio.


Over the line they go with QuickStep and Astana now on the front. Two more laps until Roglic is crowned winner, but before that we have the matter of the sprint - or will these two leaders stay out?!


Molano is making his way back. Will he have enough energy to lead out Gaviria? Still, it's Declercq on the front of the pack leading the chase. They intentionally let the gap stretch back out a little, mindful of the dangers of swallowing them up too soon.


With Walscheid off the back, that opens the door to Nikias Arndt, who is already a stage winner in this race. Molano's absence will make it tricky for Gaviria - he's his lead-out man. Two and a half laps to go.


Owain Doull and Oscar Cabedo tangle bikes - but avoid going down - near the back of the field. There have also been punctures for Max Walscheid and Juan Molano.


Now just 12 seconds for the duo. Sunweb and Deceuninck-QuickStep are on the front.


Still 22 seconds for this duo. Never before has there been as much purple and pink leading a stage race...


Lastra, needless to say, has been caught. Rubio rides on the front now. He and Martinez have 20 seconds. Behind, UAE Team Emirates have sent a man forward to help with the chase.


There's also Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Clement Venturini (Ag2R-La Mondiale) to factor in for the win today. Although that's about as likely as Valverde overhauling Roglic for the red jersey.


Bora-Hansgrohe and Sunweb have come to the front to help with the chase for their men Sam Bennett and Max Walschield. The gap is 25 seconds.


Deceuninck-QuickStep have now come to the front through Tim 'Breakaway Eater' Declercq. The Belgian team already have four stage wins through Jakobsen, Remi Cavagna and Philippe Gilbert (two). Can they set up their Dutch youngster for another?


Other sprinters with a chance today outside Bennett, Jakobsen and Gaviria: Marc Sarreau (Groupama-FDJ), Nikias Arndt and Max Walschield (both Sunweb), Jon Aberasturi (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Trek-Segafredo duo John Degenkolb and Edward Theuns.


Still 15 seconds for the two leaders over Lastra, with the pack another 10 seconds back.


The Caja Rural man is Jonathan Lastra. Remember, Caja Rural are the only wildcard team without a win: Cofidis won Stage 6 through Jesus Herrada (and had Nicolas Edet in red for a day), Burgos-BH won Stage 5 through Angel Madrazo (and had the Spaniard in polka dots for two weeks), and Euskadi-Murias won Stage 11 in the Basque Country through local lad Mikel Iturria. Can Caja Rural deliver?


Over the line the two leaders go - seven laps to go. They have a Caja Rural rider in pursuit and a lead of around 20 seconds now.


From earlier...

Video - 'Yes' - Ezquerra proposes during final Stage of Vuelta


It's over for those two escapees. The loud speakers had Rocky, now it's the Final Countdown, which is apt. Ah, no! It's not over for Rubio and Martinez - they are still out ahead, and zipping along at a fair lick of 59km/h.


Serrano has sat up, so it's just Martinez of EF and Diego Rubio of Burgos-BH, I think.


Serrano carried on his attack and has now been joined by two others - from EF Education First and Burgos-BH.


Not Aranburu, but Gonzalo Serrano, who hams it up ahead of Manuele Boaro of Astana and Owain Doull of Ineos.


The intermediate sprint is won by a Caja Rural rider - perhaps the Astana-bound Alex Aranburu?


It's Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal) but it's also immaterial because they have been swept up ahead of the intermediate sprint, which comes after the first lap, with 8 more to go.


One of the eight leaders has darted a little clear of the break - it's a man in the colours of Lotto Soudal. It's hard to see who's who because there only appears to be helicopter shots right now...


The early attacks come thick and fast and we have seven riders off the front now, including Willie Smit of Katusha-Alpecin.


Right, enough of this extended pre-amble... the riders are now in Madrid and they have just crossed the finish line. Nine laps of this city centre course - and the race is on!


When they do enter the city centre and cross the finish line for the first time, the actual racing will get going - and today's a chance for Ireland's Sam Bennett to emulate Pogacar and notch a hat-trick of stage wins. The Bora-Hansgrohe man is clearly the best sprinter here - although he'll face stiff opposition from Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates).


Colombians Miguel Angel Lopez, Dani Martinez and Juan Sebastian Molano shoot the breeze in the pack. Madrid is on the horizon and they will soon enter the Spanish capital.


Now there's a first! Spain's Jesus Ezquerra has managed to propose to his girlfriend during this leisurely ride into Madrid. With the cameras rolling, luckily she says yes! It makes up for him never finishing higher than 29th over the course of the three weeks...


Luis Angel Mate has spent more time on the front of the race today than he has in the entire previous 20 stages. He's there with Valverde and Fraile - still - before Jumbo-Visma, fresh from photo opps, come to the front to set some token tempo.


Roglic is currently riding back through the peloton and many riders are coming up to him to congratulate him for his victory. He's clearly a much-loved and respected rider in the pack. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here - will he target the Giro and Vuelta again next year, or will he have a tilt at the Tour. A lot will depend on the return to fitness of the new arrival Tom Dumoulin, I guess.


This time last year, Bouchard was just a trainee at Ag2R-La Mondiale and working at Decathalon. He came to pro cycling late - he's 27 - but has made a quick impression.


The Ag2R-La Mondiale team of Geoffrey Bouchard are currently on the back of the pack popping bunny-hops off the sleeping policemen and milking the applause. Bouchard, in his maiden Grand Tour, has won the polka dot jersey - just like teammate Romain Bardet did (albeit not in his debut) in July's Tour. The Frenchman finished on 76pts - 32pts clear of his nearest rival, the Spaniard Angel Madrazo (Burgos-BH).


The three Spanish musketeers of Alejandro Valverde, Luis Angel Mate and Omar Fraile are on the front and chewing the fat. How a couple of days make all the difference... During stage 19 when Movistar had been drilling it after Astana and Jumbo-Visma were waylaid by that crash, Fraile and Valverde remonstrated with each other on the front of the pack, the former blowing his nose across the latter's handlebars. As for Mate, the Cofidis rider has had a quiet race by his standards - hardly making any breaks and not giving his iconic rat's tail any airtime. Curious.


The peloton is now on a dual carriageway as it continues its trundle towards Madrid. Slovenians Roglic and Pogacar - the stars of the 74th edition of the Vuelta - are on the front and soaking it all in.


As a sign of how lowly the Vuelta deems the points classification, it's Nairo Quintana who is in green today; the Colombian is in fifth in the points standings. Ahead of him, Roglic is in red, Pogacar in white, Valverde in his world champion's rainbow jersey, and Bennett in the Irish champions jersey. So it's Quintana who must suffer the ignominy of wearing green all the way into Madrid.


The jersey classification wearers are currently riding on the front and lapping up the applause in this suburb of the Spanish capital. A reminder who has won what: Roglic, both the red and green, Geoffrey Bouchard the polka dots, and Pogacar with white jersey after his third stage win yesterday.


The remaining 153 riders roll out of the start and get this processional stage under way.


Spare a thought for Britain's James Knox of Deceuninck-QuickStep, who battled hard yesterday after crashing badly in Stage 19. When the dust settled, he missed out on a top 10 spot in his first completed Grand Tour by just 21 seconds.


Here's the penultimate GC with things unlikely to change much - if at all - today on the final stage, with Roglic 2'33" clear of the world champion Alejandro Valverde.


Roglic will be crowned champion of La Vuelta later today after finishing a solid fifth in the final mountain test yesterday, expertly won by his Slovenian compatriot Tadej Pogacar with a memorable solo charge onto the final podium. Days before his 21st birthday, Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) came of age by riding clear of Roglic and the race favourites with 39km remaining of the 190.4km Stage 20 through the Sierra de Gredos mountain range west of Madrid.


Hola amigos! And welcome to LIVE coverage of the final stage of the final Grand Tour of the season - yes, it's Stage 21 of La Vuelta, a largely processional pan-flat 106.6km ride from Fuenlabrada to Madrid, where we should be treated to a bunch sprint ahead of Primoz Roglic's crowning as winner of this race - a first for Slovenia and confirmation of the 29-year-old's arrival as a bona fide Grand Tour contender.