Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) became only the fifth Italian to win the Vuelta a España after finishing safely in the peloton at the end of the final stage in the centre of Madrid.
After three weeks of intense and often spectacular racing in a re-energized 75th edition of the Vuelta, Nibali beat Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo Galicia) by 41 seconds, with Peter Velits (HTC-Columbia) third overall at 3:02.
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) won the sprint at the end of the final 85km circuit stage, beating Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) to take his second stage of the Vuelta.
The American was perfectly placed coming round the last corner and burst through in the final 100 metres, while Cavendish struggled to accelerate down the right hand side of the road. Cavendish finished second and still won the green points jersey but he missed out on a fourth stage. Australia’s Allan Davis (Astana) was third in the sprint, Wouter Weylandts (Quick Step) was fourth and Cavendish’s lead out man Matt Goss (HTC-Columbia) hung on for fifth.
Nibali, Mosquera and third placed Peter Velits all finished four seconds back but all celebrated being on the podium in the Vuelta, knowing it will change the rest of the careers. Mosquera is widely expected to join the Vacansoleil team in 2011 and race much more internationally, Velits has emerged a future stage race contender, while Nibali has proved he has the pedigree to be Italy’s next star.
His Vuelta win, the first by an Italian rider since Marco Giovanetti in 1990, gives the Liquigas-Doimo team its second grand tour victory of the season after Ivan Basso’s success at the Giro d’Italia. Nibali is now set to inherit Basso’s role as Italy’s best stage race rider and expected to challenge Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck in next year’s Tour de France.
“I’ve become part of an elite group of riders who can win grand tours but I don’t want to change as a person. It’s a promise I’ve made myself,” Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“After 20 years it’s about time an Italian won this race. But I have to say that the Spanish riders made it really hard for me. They were really difficult rivals to beat.”
“People are saying that I can be a big rival to Contador because I can time trial and climb. But he’s won ever grand tour he’s ridden and I’ve only won one. It will be incredibly difficult to beat him and other riders have been trying it for several years, but perhaps one day, perhaps at the Tour de France, we’ll go head to head for victory.”