Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde and Joachim...

Alberto Contador wins 2012 Vuelta a Espana as John Degenkolb wins finale

Contador leads an all-Spanish podium as Degenkolb takes his fifth stage win

MADRID (VN) —Alberto Contador, racing his first grand tour since returning from a doping ban last month, won his second Vuelta a España crown on Sunday.

The Saxo-Bank rider, who lost his 2010 Tour de France and 2011 Giro d’Italia titles after testing positive for clenbuterol in 2010, safely negotiated the 21st and final 115km stage from Cercedilla to Madrid to claim the overall victory.

“This is the culmination of many months of work and sacrifices and not sparing any effort,” said Contador.

“People sometimes think it is easy but it is not. I dedicate this victory to those who stuck by me in the good and bad moments. It is because of them that I sacrificed myself.”

John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) won the final stage, his fifth of the Vuelta, outsprinting Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) with Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan) third.

“Amazing … just amazing,” Degenkolb said. “Really, I cannot find the right words. Maybe there are no words for that. We are so happy that we could make such a performance.”

Contador finished 54th on the day to take the final red jersey by 1:16 over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and a further 21 seconds over Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), completing an all-Spanish podium.

“We did everything we could,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes things do not turn out like one wants, but I am not going to stop fighting and trying to win a major tour.

“Where and when I don’t know, but I will try again.”

Contador had only words of praise for Rodriguez, saying: “Purito was very strong, he endured the climbs very well.

“It was very hard to win this race but I enjoyed it very much because it was a spectacular Vuelta.”

Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from the final stage of the 2012 Vuelta a España.