Alberto Contador wins 2012 Vuelta a Espana as John Degenkolb triumphs
Degenkolb rode a perfectly timed sprint on the famous Paseo del Prado boulevard and finished ahead of Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan).
Alberto Contador (Team Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank) took the overall victory in this year's Vuelta finishing 01:16 ahead of Movistar's Alejandro Valverde and 01:37 ahead of Team Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez in the general classification.
The 2012 Vuelta a Espana has been dominated by Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez of Team Katusha, who led the race for a long period, but lost everything when he proved unable to follow a powerful attack by Alberto Contador, who was crowned Vuelta a Espana champion in Madrid earlier today. It's the second time Contador takes the overall champion title in the Vuelta a Espana.
"One thing I know for sure, winning gives you more confidence and it drives you to win again. If you don't, you've always got that nagging doubt," Contador said.
Today's battle started with a breakaway a breakaway formed by Sergey Lagutin (Vacansoleil-DCM), José Aramendia (Caja Rural), Kevin Seeldraeyers (Astana), Javier Chacon and Sergio Carrasco (Andalucia) and Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi).
The breakaway group eventually was caught just prior to the last lap as a result of Team Sky Procycling's hard chase efforts hoping to set up the sprint for Ben Swift. Team Argos-Shimano, however, proved to still have the energy and ressources needed in the final stage of the three-week race and spectators thus witnessed Degenkolb initiating his victory-generating sprint with 200 meters to go.
"I’ve suffered every day but it’s been a pleasure and this victory is for you," Contador proudly shouted to the big crowds from the podium. "Hats off to Valverde and Rodriguez who have delivered a great spectacle."
"I put myself under so much pressure that right now I feel as if I have been released. I'm very pleased both with my effort and accomplishment. It's been a wild and unpredictable Vuelta and I think it's one of the greatest races in a long time," Contador explained after being celebrated on the podium.
Entering the Gran Via in Madrid, the Vuelta peloton paid tribute to two riders who have decided to end their career after concluding the Vuelta. German Grisha Nierman (Team Rabobank), 36, who began his pro career with Die Continentale in 1996, and Frenchman David Moncoutié (Cofidis), 37, who remarkably remained with the same team since 1997 and won the polka dot jersey of the Vuelta on four occasions (from 2008 to 2011).
Only 23 riders abandoned this year's Vuelta prematurely, before it concluded in Madrid earlier today.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) won both the Vuelta's points classification and the combined classification. Team GreenEdge's Simon Clarke became the first Australian to win the Vuelta's King of the Mountains classification.
Watch video highlights from all stages of the 2012 Vuelta a Espana in our videos section (U.S. only - due to geo broadcast rights restrictions).