Today's Stage: The final sprint in Madrid. Nothing other than a stage win and the Green and Combined Jerseys on the line.
Who won today's stage? It was a sprint. John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) hadn't won one of those in awhile, but he took today's easily over Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale). The win was Degenkolb's fifth stage win of the race, easily confirming himself as the best sprinter in this weakened field of sprinters (most stayed away because of the mountainous nature of this Vuelta course that gave them few stages to target.
Final GC: No changes today, as expected in the final General Classification. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) finished with the main group to confirm his overall victory followed by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha). Here is the final top 10:
1 Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff)
2 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1'16”
3 Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) +1'37”
4 Chris Froome (Team Sky) +10'16”
5 Daniel Moreno (Katusha) +11'29”
6 Robert Gesink (Rabobank) +12'23”
7 Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) +13'28”
8 Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank) +13'41”
9 Igor Anton (Euskatel) +14'01”
10 Benat Intxausti (Movistar) +16'13”
What matters in the other competitions?
Green Jersey (Points) – Valverde took sixth on the stage in the sprint while Rodriguez finished outside of the points. This allowed Valverde to overtake Rodriguez and steal the jersey on the final day (the second year in a row this has happened as Bauke Mollema overtook Rodriguez to win the jersey in Madrid last year). Here is the final top 5:
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 199
Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) 193
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) 161
John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) 149
Daniele Bennati (RSNT) 107
Polka Dot Jersey (King of the Mountains, it's blue in Spain, not red) – Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) sealed this jersey early on the Bola del Mundo stage. His work done, he sat up and slowed home after that and today with the Mountains jersey and a stage win in his pocket. Here is the final top 3:
Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) 63
David de la Fuente (Caja Rural) 40
Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) 36
White Jersey (Allround, instead of young rider, calculated by adding the rankings in GC, Points and KoM, lowest score wins) – Rodriguez had led this jersey for so long that it may have seemed impossible to catch him, but Valverde did, forging a tie and winning on the tiebreaker of higher in GC Classification. Here is the top 3:
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 8
Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) 8
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) 10
Team Classification (top 3 times by team on each stage) – No changes here, Movistar wins easily. Here are the top 3:
AG2R La Mondiale +20'19”
Biggest surprise of the race: Alejandro Valverde's performance. Valverde, racing this season coming off a doping suspension was not thought to be a contender here. Heck, he wasn't even his own team leader (that was defending champion Juan Jose Cobo, more on him in a moment). Also, Valverde had struggled through the Tour de France taking one stage where he had to empty the energy tank entirely and likely still would have been caught if not of Team Sky team orders. Given that form and situation, seeing Valverde emerge as Movistar's contender was a big surprise.
Biggest disappointment: Speaking of Mr. Cobo. He was awful. From day one. In the Team Time Trial he lost contact with his team and lost five seconds. Then he was dropped by the leaders on the first mountain stage (good for Movistar staying with Valverde and Intxausti who were obviously in better form). By the end of the race, Cobo had sunk to 67th place, over 2 hours behind Contador. Just awful, but given his season, this result isn't that bad. If anything, it calls into question the result last year as Cobo had a sudden one year spike ending in a Grand Tour victory while riding for one of the most notorious team managers in the world. With that team gone and Cobo away from him, he was back to domestique level and didn't even reach that in this race.
What's next for the peloton? Some are racing right now at the Tour of Britain while others are in Canada for the second of the World Tour races there (Michael Albasini of Orica-GreenEdge won the first). After those, everyone will converge at the World Champioship's, starting with the new Team Time Trial next Sunday.