Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) collected the final leader’s jersey in the Vuelta a España on Sunday as Adriano Malori (Movistar) won the concluding stage, a 9.7km individual time trial in Santiago de Compostela.
Malori set an early top time of 11 minutes and 12 seconds that stood as the weather deteriorated, forcing later starters to ride cautiously on a wet, winding course. Jesse Sergent (Trek Factory Racing) finished second on the day, eight seconds slower, with Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) third at nine seconds.
With Alejandro Valverde making the final podium, “it’s been a great Vuelta,” said Malori. “It’s huge for me as well, having taken a stage victory here. I am happy to win this final stage… Luckily, the team gave me a free ticket to recover during yesterday’s stage and I could tackle this time trial at 100-percent focus. We knew it could rain, and also that all the favorites (other than the GC contenders) riders like Rohan Dennis, Jesse Sergent or Jurgen Van de Walle, all started during the first hour.
“When I knew I had taken eight seconds on Sergent, which looked to me like a strong favorite, I realized I had many chances to win. He put two seconds on me through the intermediate, but the second part was more for strong rouleurs, suiting me better. The watts I produced were close to the highest level I found in my time trials this season, and that means I finished the Vuelta in good condition.”
In the end, it was Contador taking the title by 1:10 ahead of Chris Froome (Sky) with Valverde third at 1:50.
“I am thrilled with this victory,” said Contador. “It’s a dream to win three Vueltas. It’s something unexpected. The fans supported me along the way, and really gave me a boost to keep fighting. The team did a great job, and I could not have won without their support.”
It was less than two months ago that the 31-year-old Spaniard broke his leg in a crash that forced him out of the Tour de France.
Froome broke his hand and wrist in a crash that ended his defense of his Tour title, but he did not recover as well or as quickly as Contador.
“I am happy with the Vuelta, considering how my condition was at the start of the race,” he said. “I would like to come back to win the Vuelta one day. This podium gives me a lot of motivation for the future and the coming season. Alberto was the strongest, so he deserves to win.”
Neither managed a particularly impressive final time trial — Froome finished 63rd at 1:13, while Contador crossed 101st at 1:40 — but that was mostly due to the weather.
As for Valverde, he was already looking ahead to the world championship, and Il Lombardia.
“I’m really satisfied with this third place and my performance through the last three weeks,” Valverde said. “Save for the misfortune with Nairo’s crash, the team was A-plus. I think having Nairo still with us during the second part of the race would have changed things and made the race different for us. Still, I think this podium is a fair prize to all the work we did. We claimed three stage wins, which is also prestigious and important. It’s yet another podium finish for me in the Vuelta, already six since I became a pro. I think this hasn’t been done many times before, and I’m really happy.
“My season has been really consistent,” Valverde continued. “I won races right from the beginning in Andalusia, I was there in the classics, the Tour… but despite all of that, I don’t feel tired. Contrary to what usually happens, every seasons seems to me like shorter than the previous ones, more than when I was younger. I’m still excited about the sport, the racing, willing to give my best in what’s left this season, with two beautiful goals in the Worlds and Lombardy.”