Denis Menchov (Rabobank) won the Tour of Spain title in Madrid Sunday following the 21st stage, with Italian Daniele Bennati (Lampre) claiming victory in the final stage over Alessandro Petacchi (Milram).
It is the second Vuelta crown for the 29-year-old Russian, who lives in the northern Spanish town of Pamplona, after he took the 2005 title when Spaniard Roberto Heras was disqualified for doping.
Spaniards Carlos Sastre (CSC) and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) completed the podium.
With last year’s top three finishers out of the race former runner-up Sastre was a big favourite along with Tour de France runner-up Cadel Evans of Australia.
Kazakhstan’s Alexandre Vinokourov and Andriy Kashechkin are serving bans for doping, and Spaniard Alejandro Valverde decided not to race the Vuelta to save himself for the world road race championships in Stuttgart this week.
But Menchov, who was forced to abandon last year’s race due to stomach cramps, killed all the suspense in three stages. He moved into second place after the eighth stage, a 52km time-trial in which he finished fourth.
The Russian then opened up a two-minute lead over the favourites at the end of the 167km ninth stage, the first mountain stage of the race between Huesca and the ski station of Cerler, when he finished second.
The next day Menchov won the 10th stage, his only stage win of this year’s race and another mountain run of 214 km between Benasque and Ordino-Arcalis in Andorra.
“I have the Vuelta half won, a little bit more than half if we consider that we have done the most difficult part,” Menchov said after the 10th stage win. Menchov then rode a perfect race for the remainder of the tour and fought off without difficulty the attacks of Sastre.
1 Daniele Bennati (Ita | Lampre-Fondital) 2:37:27
2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita | Milram)
3 Aliaksandr Usau (Blr | Ag2r Prevoyance)
Final general classification
1 Denis Menchov (Rus | Rabobank) 80:59:07
2 Carlos Sastre (Spa | CSC) 00:03:31
3 Samuel Sánchez (Spa | Euskaltel-Euskadi) 00:03:46
4 Cadel Evans (Aus | Predictor-Lotto) 00:03:56
5 Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa | Karpin Galicia) 00:06:34
6 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus | Caisse d’Epargne) 00:07:07
7 Vladimir Karpets (Rus | Caisse d’Epargne) 00:08:09
8 Igor Antón (Spa | Euskaltel-Euskadi) 00:08:44
9 Manuel Beltrán (Spa | Liquigas) 00:09:38
10 Carlos Barredo (Spa | Quick Step-Innergetic) 00:10:12
© BikeRadar & AFP 2007