Greipel Takes Final Stage; Valverde Wins 2009 Vuelta a Espana
The 2009 Vuelta is history. Andre Greipel (Columbia) took his fifth stage win in 3:11:55 when he won a bunch sprint at the end of the rolling, 110.2-km run from Rivas-Vaciamadrid to Madrid. Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) finished second, and Borut Bozic (Vacansoleil) took third. Greipel's victory completed his triumph in the points competition, while Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) won the overall victory.
As is usually the case in the final road stage of a Grand Tour, the early part of Stage 21 was relaxed. Members of Caisse d'Epargne drank champagne, and members of the other teams congratulated the Spanish squad on its victory.
At the beginning of the first of seven six-km laps, Bingen Fernandez (Cofidis) went to the front of the peloton. The Spaniard, a popular rider, led the field during the first lap in what was a prearranged tribute to him. Fernandez will retire at the end of the season to take a job with Garmin. When the Cofidis man dropped back to the peloton, the racing began.
Six riders attacked immediately. They were Dominik Roels (Milram), Remy Di Gregorio (Francaise des Jeux), Mickael Delage (Silence), David da Pena Garcia (Xacobeo Galicia), Jesus Prado Rosendo (Andalucia), and Manuel Vazquez (Contentpolis). The sextet forged a 17-second lead over the peloton, which Columbia and Caisse d'Epargne led.
For a time, the fugitives' advantage held steady. It was 0:19 with four laps left, 0:23 with three laps to go, and 0:22 with two laps remaining. Then, Liquigas and Vacansoleil joined Columbia at the front, and the escapees' lead began to fall.
One km shy of the bell lap, Vazquez attacked his companions. The break's lead fell to 0:12 with seven km left, 0:11 with six km to go, and 0:09 with five km remaining. Delage attacked his companions, but he need not have bothered. The peloton reeled in the break.
With two km left, Vacansoleil and Liquigas led the field. Columbia joined them at the one-km banner. Bennati and Bozic led the peloton with 300 m to go, but Greipel came around teammate Greg Henderson and bested Bennati by two bike lengths.
In the overall, Valverde won the 2009 Vuelta a Espana by 0:55 over Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and by 1:32 over Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto). Many of the riders who rode all or part of the Vuelta did so to tune up for the 2009 world championships, which will take place this coming week in Mendrisio, Switzerland. Who will triumph? Who will fail? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
Watch Vuelta a Espana video in our videos section (Vuelta video only available in the US - other races available worldwide). Also, be sure to sign up for our training diary service (also used by many pros) and register in our discussion forums.