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Vuelta a Espana

2008 Vuelta a España: Live Updates – Stage 21

02:15 PM: Good day and welcometo's Live Coverage of the 21st - and Final! - stage of the 2008 Vuelta a España, a largely ceremonial cruise from San Sebastian de los Reyes to the traditional finish in Madrid.

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  • 02:15 PM: Good day and welcome

    to’s Live Coverage of the 21st – and Final! – stage of the 2008 Vuelta a España, a largely ceremonial cruise from San Sebastian de los Reyes to the traditional finish in Madrid.

    This is the stage in which the overall winner can relax, sip a bit of champagne on the way into town and pose for photos, before the peloton hits the streets of Madrid for eight laps through a 6-kilometer circuit that inevitably ends in a mass sprint for the finish. The winners on the final day of the Vuelta are usually among the sport’s best sprinters, including Bennati, Zabel, Petacchi, Steels, Van Poppel, Abdoujaparov, Dejonckheere…

    One of those men is still here, so maybe it would be a good shot for Erik Zabel to show his stuff.

    Today’s start is expected at 2:45, after a 6.8-kilometer ride through this afternoon’s neutral zone.

  • 02:18 PM: Relaxed sign-in

    there are thousands of fans here for today’s start.

    Today’s weather is a little dicey. There is a 35% chance for rain and the morning started out cloudy and there has already been a bit of sproadic rain, but that has stopped now. It’s now 22°C (71°F) and the clouds are beginning to clear.

  • 02:32 PM: The jerseys

    As you know, the race for the gold jersey is all but over, with Alberto Contador holding a 46-second advantage over his teammate, Levi Leipheimer and 4:12 over CSC-Saxo Bank’s Carlos Sastre:
    Overall, After Stage 20
    1. Alberto Contador (ESP) Astana, at 77:55:29
    2. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana, at 46
    3. Carlos Sastre (ESP) CSC, at 4:12
    4. Ezequiel Mosquera (ESP) Xacobeo – Galicia, at 5:19
    5. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne, at 6:00
    6. Joaquín Rodríguez Oliver (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne, at 6:50
    7. Robert Gesink (NED) Rabobank, at 6:55
    8. David Moncoutie (FRA) Cofidis, at 10:10
    9. Egoi Martínez (ESP) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 10:57
    10. Marzio Bruseghin (ITA) Lampre, at 11:56

    As long as David Moncoutie makes it to today’s finish, he’ll have the climber’s jersey, since there are no more rated climbs in this Vuelta:
    Overal KOM, after stage 20
    1. David Moncoutie (FRA) Cofidis 149 points
    2. Christophe Kern (FRA) Credit Agricole 106 points
    3. Alberto Contador (ESP) Astana 99 points
    4. Juan Manuel Garate (ESP) Quick Step 89 points
    5. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 65 points
    6. Ezequiel Mosquera (ESP) Xacobeo – Galicia 56 points
    7. Joaquín Rodríguez Oliver (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne 51 points
    8. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne 48 points
    9. Iñigo Landaluze (ESP) Euskaltel-Euskadi 46 points
    10. Maarten Tjallingii (NED) Silence-Lotto 43 points

    The points jersey, however, is still up in the air, with Silence-Lotto’s Greg Van Avermaet holding a slight lead over Contador. Now while Contador won’t be likely to contest the final sprint, Van Avermaet may face a challenge from Alejandro Valverde, or even Levi Leipheimer for the final dash to the line, in which the winner will receive 25 points.

    The points distribution on flat stages is as follows:
    1. 25 points
    2. 20 points
    3. 16 points
    4. 14 points
    5. 12 points
    6. 10 points
    7. 9 points
    8. 8 points
    9. 7 points
    10. 6 points
    11. 5 points
    12. 4 points
    13. 3 points
    14. 2 points
    15. 1 points

    There are also two intermediate sprints (at 23 and 72.2km), at which 4, 2 and 1 points are awarded to the top three.

    As you can see, there is still a chance for three riders to challenge for the points jersey, with Valverde being the most likely to be the one, if anyone is going to try. Van Avermaet, though, will probably be in the mix at the finish and he is still quite likely to take the jersey back home to Belgium.
    Overall points, After 20 Stages
    1. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) Silence-Lotto 142 points
    2. Alberto Contador (ESP) Astana 137 points
    3. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne 129 points
    4. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 116 points
    5. Larrea Koldo Fdez De (ESP) Euskaltel-Euskadi 74 points
    6. Joaquín Rodríguez Oliver (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne 69 points
    7. Ezequiel Mosquera (ESP) Xacobeo – Galicia 67 points
    8. David Moncoutie (FRA) Cofidis 65 points
    9. Sébastien Hinault (FRA) Credit Agricole 60 points
    10. Carlos Sastre (ESP) CSC 60 points

  • 02:34 PM: Rolling

    the peloton is casually rolling through the neutral zone. We should see the start in about 10 to 12 minutes.

  • 02:35 PM: Drop us a line

    If you have a question, a comment or even a complaint, feel free to hit the Contact our editors link below the Live Update Window.

    We promise to read them all, answer as many as we can and even post a few during today’s coverage.

  • 02:45 PM: Nearing the start

    the peloton is cruising to the Kilometer-Zero mark. It’s the last day of a grand tour, so we doubt we’ll see a whole lot of action until the first sprint mark at the 23-kilometer mark. Tradition generally dictates that the team of the overall race leader will be the first to ride on to the first lap of the final circuit. It’s generally regarded as bad form to attack early on these last stages and the usual willingness of the peloton to let a group of low-GC players to slip off the front on other stages simply does not apply on the final day.

  • 03:01 PM: Slow

    It’s party time and the peloton is taking its time getting started. The peloton reached the official start at 2:57 (they did really take their time, folks) and since the pace has been equally moderate at best as all are celebrating the completion of a three-week Tour. One of them, Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) has particular reason to celebrate, since he’s been in all three grand tours this year. he finished third in the Giro, 27th in the Tour and is close to finishing 10th in the Vuelta. Not a bad season.

  • 03:09 PM: Riders

    There are 131 riders remaining in the Vuelta. Everyone who finished yesterday is in the peloton today. One rider, Fabio Sabatini (Milram), missed the sign-in, but he’s riding, too. We thought it would be kinda weird for someone to drop out on this last day. Sabatini will get a fine for missing the sign-in, but he will make it to the finish. He’s currently in 102nd place, 2:20:22 out of first, but even finishing a grand tour is a great accomplishment and there’s no reason to take a pass on what will be the easiest stage of the entire three-week stretch.

  • 03:27 PM: Posing

    The peloton has only covered about 12 kilometers since the start. The Astana team is riding with race leader Alberto Contador, who is happily posing for photographers on this casual ride to Madrid. In a while, we expect to see a bit of action as the sprint at 23km gets closer.

  • 03:39 PM: Coming up on that first sprint

    The peloton is at the 18.5km mark. The day’s first intermediate sprint is at 23km.

    We can expect our points leader to either send off his teammates to sweep up the points, or to try to add to his own count.

  • 03:47 PM: Van Avermaet

    scores top points at 23km.

    As you can see, it was an all Silence-Lotto affair, indicating that there is not going to be a real challenge to his hold on the jersey… at least until the finish line.

    1. Greg van Avermaet, (Silence-Lotto), 4 points
    2. Olver Kaiser, (Silence-Lotto), 2 points
    3. Maarten Tjallingii, (Silence-Lotto), 1 point

  • 03:59 PM: Reader comment/question

    Valle S. writes in to say:

    Your LUG crew has had a great season. Congrats. How do you organize all your statistics? You seem to have information on the lowest profile riders as well as the biggies!
    Thank you, Valle, we’ve had a lot of fun this year. It’s been a blast doing the Live Updates. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did… even our occasional snarky comments about riders, doping and whatever else springs to mind. As for our “organization,” that’s not exactly the word you’d use if you saw our desk!

  • 04:08 PM: Reader comment

    Tony D. writes in to note:

    About the Final Time Trial. Why is it so short? At 17k, not that much time can be lost or made. Had it been over 30K, we might have seen a shake up on the podium.
    Well, it was short, but it was an uphillTT and the Vuelta has used those before. We know a lot of you would have enjoyed a big GC shake-up yesterday, but when the route was announced, it was clear that the organizers had included the stage as a way to resolve the outcome if it was still close. To his credit, Contador did ride to a second-place finish yesterday. The last time the final TT made a huge difference was in 2002 when Aitor Gonzalez took the final time trial, knocking Roberto Heras out of the jersey on the very last day of the Vuelta. It wasn’t even close, though. Heras finished the Vuelta 2:41 out of first after a really bad ride in the time trial. Heras got some satisfaction the following year, winning an uphill time trial on the peultimate (we really overuse that word here at VN) stage, knocking Isidro Nozal out of the leader’s jersey.

    Of course the greatest final time trial of all time was that relatively short 25km TT at the end of the 1989 Tour de France, in which Greg LeMond took the leader’s jersey away from Laurent Fignon, making up 58 seconds on his former teammate and winning the Tour by just eight seconds, the smallest victory margin in the history of any of the grand tours. We still don’t understand why the Tour hasn’t ended with another time trial. It was a terrific way to end a three-week race.

  • 04:09 PM: Mellow

    the pace has been a very moderate and relaxed 31kph for the first hour of racing. It’s going to be a while before the action heats up in Madrid.

  • 04:28 PM: Reader question

    John C. writes to ask

    You keep making reference to your “advanced” years, but still keep mentioning things like school and finals. You can’t be that old. Anyway, how long have you been doing this stuff? Over the years, you must have developed a few favorites… riders for whom you hold a high regard. Who are they?Mmmmm…. well, the Senior Live Update Guy lives up to that “Senior” designation by having hit 50 during the Giro this year. For some reason, his mid-life crisis manifested itself in strange ways and he went back to school a couple of years ago. Graduation from law school comes on May 16th and you’re welcome to come, if you’re in the neighborhood.

    Of course, our on John Wilcockson has been at this longer than any of us, having covered the Tour since the 1960s. SLUG has been doing this for 14 years, having held a variety of good, bad, interesting and downright weird jobs before coming to VN in 1994.

    As for my favorites? My two favorite grand tour riders have to be Sean Kelly and Greg LeMond… mostly because they were the biggies back in the day. Domestically, Tim Johnson is still on top of our list. He’s a great guy and has a terrific attitude, reminding us that this sport can – and should – be fun.

  • 04:29 PM: At 40km

    the pace is quite slow. There have been no attacks.

  • 04:37 PM: Reader question

    Deb writes in to ask:

    Hello LUG,
    i have thoroughly enjoyed your commentary over the last three weeks, especially the snippets that a novice (to the world of road cycling) like me find fascinating!!
    Q: You have often referred to “head bangers” … is this to reflect what seems to be an absolutely futile attempt to win a stage by breaking away from the peloton??? Also in the 10 minute summary we get here in the mornings I could have sworn I saw Contador eating a banana!! I thought the guys only ate those gel bars??
    Thanks again for the great coverage, I wish there were some video too…..

    You’re right. The “headbangers” designation comes from the generally futile effort to breakaway, but they do occasionally succeed. We still regard the great Jacky Durand as the king of the headbangers and he won his share of races by making early attacks.

    As for the banana, Contador does indeed eat them on the road. A banana is a terrific source of energy, averaging about 200 calories a piece and offering 51 grams of carb’s and a healthy dose of potassium, to boot. Gels and energy bars are … uhhh… a less-than-tasty attempt to mimic the food that good ol’ mother nature seems to excel at.

  • 04:40 PM: On the outskirts of town

    the peloton is cruising into the outer edges of Madrid. It will be reaching the circuit soon and we’ll start seeing some action soon.

  • 04:42 PM: There are 50km remaining

    the peloton is still intact, with the Astana team taking the lead position. It’s still relaxed, with riders smiling and chatting and enjoying the break after three weeks of racing.

    The weather is holding nicely.

  • 04:48 PM: The pace

    is picking up as the peloton courses through the streets of Madrid. There are huge crowds out there.

  • 04:50 PM: The peloton

    is being led by the Astana team. The are just a few kilometers away from reaching the final circuit.

  • 04:53 PM: On the circuit

    tradition dictates that the race leader’s team remain at the front at least until they cross the finish line for the first time today. Things may begin to pick up, as riders start fighting for a stage win.

  • 04:56 PM: Attack!

    Andalucia is sending a rider off the front. He’s been joined by another rider from a small team Xacobeo – Galicia.

    It’s Manuel Ortega (ESP) Andalucia-Cajasur and Serafín Martínez Acevedo (ESP) Xacobeo – Galicia…. but they’re about to get caught.

  • 04:59 PM: The Astana team

    has slipped back and there are riders taking digs off the front.

    We see Zandio up there, with a rider from Lampre and another from Liquigas.

  • 05:03 PM: The three men off the front are

    Jesus Rosendo Prado (Andalucia Cajasur), Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas) and Emanuele Bindi (Lampre). They have 27 seconds. A nice little gap.

  • 05:05 PM: Astana leads the pack

    We have that nice little break up the road, and Astana is leading the peloton.

  • 05:05 PM: The gap

    is now up to 36 seconds.

  • 05:08 PM: Cofidis

    has taken over at the front of the peloton. Astana’s primary duty today is to keep Contador and Leipheimer safe, so they won’t be driving a big chase effort. The Cofidis team has hopes of putting Leonardo Duque into the field sprint.

    Having crossed the day’s second intermediate sprint mark, the three men up front – none of whom is in a position to contest the points jersey – swept up the points.

  • 05:10 PM: The gap

    is being trimmed by the Cofidis and Euskaltel teams. With 4.5 laps remaining, the three men – Jesus Rosendo Prado (Andalucia Cajasur), Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas) and Emanuele Bindi (Lampre) – are now 28 seconds ahead of the field.

  • 05:12 PM: The crowds

    in downtown Madrid are huge, lining the route 10-deep at some points.

    Jesus Rosendo Prado (Andalucia Cajasur), Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas) and Emanuele Bindi (Lampre) have bumped their lead to 33 seconds.

  • 05:15 PM: Cooperation

    the three men up front – Jesus Rosendo Prado (Andalucia Cajasur), Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas) and Emanuele Bindi (Lampre) – are working well together. They have four laps to go and are holding a lead of 32 seconds.

  • 05:18 PM: 3.5 laps to go

    Jesus Rosendo Prado (Andalucia Cajasur), Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas) and Emanuele Bindi (Lampre) are still holding on to a 35-second lead.

  • 05:19 PM: Credit Agricole, Cofidis and Euskaltel

    are leading the chase.

  • 05:19 PM: The gap

    is 27 seconds, with about 19km to go.

  • 05:20 PM: Yo-yo

    the three up front – Jesus Rosendo Prado (Andalucia Cajasur), Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas) and Emanuele Bindi (Lampre) – have re-extended their lead to 35 seconds.

  • 05:23 PM: The turns

    seem to be taking a little bit of speed out of the peloton. These turns are tight 180s and the leaders are getting a little time on the turns, but as they hit the three-laps-to-go mark, the peloton has pulled back time on the long straightaways. They are now 26 seconds ahead of the peloton.

  • 05:24 PM: CSC

    is moving up and lending a hand. The gap is now down to 20 seconds.

  • 05:26 PM: CSC

    is working to set up Matti Breschel for a win, no doubt. The team has had a good Vuelta, but they have not yet won a stage.

    15km to go.

  • 05:27 PM: Cofidis/CSC

    are working at the front of the peloton. With 14km to go, they have trimmed the gap to 21 seconds.

  • 05:30 PM: Two laps to go

    the three leaders are now two laps from the finish and the gap is down to 9 seconds. Alexandr Kolobnev is driving hard at the front of the field and they keep glancing over their shoulders … the universal sign of surrender.

  • 05:31 PM: CSC/Credit Agricole/Euskaltel

    are driving the chase. We are expecting a sprint finish. Bindi has dropped off and is drifting back to the field.

  • 05:31 PM: With two men

    off the front, the two escapees are close to being reeled in.

  • 05:32 PM: Five seconds

    …. make that two…. uhhh make that caught.

  • 05:33 PM: Wait

    Prado is not giving up… he’s trying to go by himself.

  • 05:34 PM: Caught

    at 65kph it’s hard to stay away. The Milram team is moving up… hoping to set up Erik Zabel for the finish.

  • 05:35 PM: All together

    and the pace is high, with riders in single-file.

  • 05:36 PM: Nick Nuyens

    is driving hard at the front for Cofidis. The Milram team is moving up slowly.

  • 05:36 PM: Ding, ding, ding, ding

    one lap to go!

  • 05:37 PM: With 6m to go

    it’s all together and teams are moving into position.

  • 05:37 PM: Flecha

    is moving up. Can we expect a late attack?

  • 05:38 PM: five km to go

    Euskaltel is moving up fast on the left.

  • 05:38 PM: Euskaltel is now up

    front, hoping to set up Fernandez.

  • 05:39 PM: four kilometers

    to go. Milram is now up front.

  • 05:39 PM: Milram/Euskaltel

    are setting up their respective trains. CSC is hovering up there.

  • 05:40 PM: 2.5km

    to go…. meaning Contador is safe. If he has a mishap in the final three km, he will get pack time.

  • 05:40 PM: Crash!

    We need to ID.

  • 05:42 PM: In the final km

    and another crash!

  • 05:43 PM: Charge!!!!

    Credit Agricole is driving at the front. Jeremy Hunt goes… Hunt fades and it’s a swarm…. and Breschel gets the win for CSC!

  • 05:46 PM: What a wild finish

    two crashes. Some of those riders are still picking themselves up from the ground. Both crashes came in the final three km, so the affected riders will get pack time.

    It looks like Van Avermaet will keep the points jersey.

    Moncoutie, too, will keep his jersey. He finished.

    Of course, Alberto Contador finished safely in the field, becoming just the fifth rider in the history of the sport to win all three grand tours and the one to have done that in the shortest period of time.

  • 05:52 PM: Results

    Stage Results
    1. Matti Breschel (DEN) CSC, 2:44:39
    2. Alexandre Usov (BLR) Ag2r La Mondiale, Same Time
    3. Davide Vigano (ITA) Quick Step, Same Time
    4. Larrea Koldo Fdez De (ESP) Euskaltel-Euskadi, Same Time
    5. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) Silence-Lotto, Same Time
    6. Mauro Santambrogio (ITA) Lampre, Same Time
    7. Sebastian Lang (GER) Gerolsteiner, Same Time
    8. Sébastien Hinault (FRA) Credit Agricole, Same Time
    9. Lloyd Mondory (FRA) Ag2r La Mondiale, Same Time
    10. Xavier Florencio (ESP) Bouygues Telecom, Same Time
    11. Claudio Corioni (ITA) Liquigas, Same Time
    12. Theo Eltink (NED) Rabobank, Same Time
    13. Pedro Horrillo (ESP) Rabobank, Same Time
    14. Leonardo Duque (COL) Cofidis, Same Time
    15. Erik Zabel (GER) Milram, Same Time
    16. Matej Jurco (SVK) Milram, Same Time
    17. Daniel Moreno Fernández (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne, Same Time
    18. Vasili Kiryienka (BLR) Tinkoff, Same Time
    19. Luis Pasamontes (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne, Same Time
    20. Pavel Brutt (RUS) Tinkoff, Same Time

    1. Alberto Contador (ESP) Astana, at 80:40:08
    2. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana, at 46
    3. Carlos Sastre (ESP) CSC, at 4:12
    4. Ezequiel Mosquera (ESP) Xacobeo – Galicia, at 5:19
    5. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne, at 6:00
    6. Joaquín Rodríguez Oliver (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne, at 6:50
    7. Robert Gesink (NED) Rabobank, at 6:55
    8. David Moncoutie (FRA) Cofidis, at 10:10
    9. Egoi Martínez (ESP) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 10:57
    10. Marzio Bruseghin (ITA) Lampre, at 11:56
    11. Oliver Zaugg (SUI) Gerolsteiner, at 12:38
    12. Daniel Moreno Fernández (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne, at 13:35
    13. Nicolas Roche (IRL) Credit Agricole, at 13:41
    14. David García Dapena (ESP) Xacobeo – Galicia, at 15:59
    15. Juan Manuel Garate (ESP) Quick Step, at 17:53
    16. Jurgen Van Goolen (BEL) CSC, at 20:14
    17. David Arroyo (ESP) Caisse d’Epargne, at 21:33
    18. John Gadret (FRA) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 22:34
    19. Sandy Casar (FRA) Francaise Des Jeux, at 24:57
    20. Andreas Klöden (GER) Astana, at 25:13

  • 05:56 PM: Well, thank you

    We appreciate you tuning in today, and throughout the entire Vuelta… indeed, throughout the entire season.

    Be sure to check back soon for complete results, photos from Graham Watson and a full stage report from Andrew Hood.