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63rd Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, August 30 - September 21, 2008

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Stage 21 - September 21: San Sebastián de los Reyes - Madrid, 102.2km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Gregor Brown

15:04 CEST   
Hola! Welcome to live coverage of the Vuelta a España. Today we are racing to Madrid in the last stage of the Spanish Grand Tour. Alberto Contador (Astana) looks likely to make history as the only Spaniard to win all three Grand Tours.

Spain's Alberto Contador (Astana), 25, on his way to a third Grand Tour win.
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

15:07 CEST   
The racers will cover 6.8 kilometres in San Sebastián de los Reyes before the official 102.2 kilometres to Madrid.

15:09 CEST   
Contador is in the maillot oro. The Spaniard won the Grand Tours of Italy and France, but "I've felt the support of the public during the Vuelta more than in any other race," he said.

15:12 CEST   
With the possible win in Madrid today, Contador becomes only one of five riders to win all three Grand Tours – joining Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx, Felice Gimondi and Jacques Anquetil. He went from the maillot jaune on Paris' Champs Élysées to the maglia rosa in Milano and on to his final triumph in a period of 14 months.

15:13 CEST   
Caisse d'Epargne team-manager, Eusebio Unzue, said "We have won three stages and we are leading the team classification," he said. "We have been at the forefront throughout the race, with the exception of the mistake during the Suances stage. The overall balance is positive and motive for satisfaction." (That was not Eusebio Unzue!)

15:13 CEST   
131 riders are rolling along.

15:22 CEST    10km/92.2km to go
The race is all together in the opening kilometres as the riders are celebrating three weeks of racing.

15:24 CEST   
Contador is by his Astana team and surrounded by the red mountain's jersey of David Moncoutié (Cofidis) and the blue points jersey of Greg Van Avermaet (Silence-Lotto). The white combination jersey also belongs to Contador, but Leipheimer wore it though the stage as runner up in the competition.

15:26 CEST   
This is the shortest road stage of the 68th Vuelta a España. In Madrid a circuit along the Paseo de la Castellana is used. It is not as famous than the Champs Elysées, unless you ask a Madrilene, of course.

15:39 CEST    17km/85.2km to go
The weather is calm and 22°C for the 131 riders making their way to Madrid. It is a far cry from the stage that World Champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) won in Suances.

15:48 CEST   
There are two sprints on the day. The group is coming up to the first of the two, in Torrejón de Ardoz. Expect to see Greg Van Avermaet (Silence-Lotto) to nip off the front and take some points, even though he has the competition locked up.

15:49 CEST   
Do you know the last time the Vuelta did not finish in Madrid? Write in and let us know. The commentator e-mail is below.

15:51 CEST    25km/77.2km to go
Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet (Silence-Lotto) takes the sprint in Torrejón. Olivier Kaisen (Silence-Lotto) and Maarten Tjallingii (Silence-Lotto) follow him. The latter featured in stage 13's escape to Alto de l'Angliru.

16:03 CEST   
Thanks to everyone pointing our mistakes. Now, how about some ideas on where the Vuelta finished the last time it did not finish in Madrid?

Carlos Sastre (CSC) keeping it steady in stage 20
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

16:19 CEST   
Carlos Sastre put the rumours to rest about his statements to Spanish media about the team's selection. He clarified to Cyclingnews before the start of the final stage his comments. "I never said anything bad about this team. We are second in the teams classification. My teammates give everything for me. They are fantastic people and teammates."

On a sporting level, Sastre was mostly happy with his season. "I finish on the podium here in Madrid after a nice Tour de France. It was a difficult Vuelta for me, but it was also nice and being on the podium is really important."

16:21 CEST    42km/60.2km to go
The peloton just passed Rivas, NE of Madrid.

16:22 CEST   
The average for the first hour of racing is 30.7km. Sure, that is slow, but keep in mind that the race will explode on the streets of Madrid.

16:27 CEST   
Monika, we will update you soon on Tomas Vaitkus (Astana). We spot him daily in his national kit. The first he came to Cyclingnews' attention was that hot day in Italy's Termoli. He had just won stage nine of the 2006 Giro d'Italia and put a mark on the world's cycling scene.

16:29 CEST   
Theo Eltink of Team Rabobank is happy it was the final day. He could also celebrate his accomplishment. "This is my sixth Grand Tour and I finished all of them. It's always a thing to be proud of to be still there in the end."

Eltink will enjoy the first part of the race, while the second will be harder. "It's just rolling in until the first time across the finish line. 40 kilometres of racing, 60 kilometres of fun; for the pictures, for the big people."

As for the big people, he praised his teammate Robert Gesink. "It is his first Grand Tour. It is really great. It's been ten years since a Dutch guy was close in a Grand Tour with Michael Boogerd. It's not the Tour de France but it is great to become seventh the first time. He already has a name and people expect a lot of him."

As for the remainder of the season Eltink was yet uncertain. "I am not sure yet, maybe the Italian races. But the programme will come out tomorrow and we will have to sit down and discuss it."

16:32 CEST   
Mikhaylo Khalilov wins the GP Prato. The Ceramica Flaminia-Bossini Docce rider won over Marco Frapporti and Volodymyr Zagorodny.

16:34 CEST   
We see Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) having a chat. He rode well yesterday with an eighth place.

16:48 CEST   
Thanks to Kevin, Olsen and Mars for answering our question. When was the last time the Vuelta did not finish in Madrid? The answer, as our three readers pointed out, is 1993, when it finished in Santiago de Compostela. Tony Rominger won that year.

16:49 CEST   
Quick Step rider Kevin Van Impe described his expectations of the final stage to Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake. "It is always good if it's the last day. It's not too many kilometres, so that's good. I hope we are fast at home... I think the first part will not be so fast, but the final will be hard. It is good it is only 100 kilometres and not 200..."

As for the race, Van Impe enjoyed his second Vuelta. "The weather is better than in Belgium. I like Spain!" His best memories were "the five victories for the team. I hope the sixth today for Wouter. And the Angliru. It was the first time I did that. It's very special with all the people."

He didn't want to dwell on negative items, although he admitted "in the first week I wasn't going so well."

The remainder of his programme after some rest. "I will do Franco-Belge and then Paris-Tours."

16:50 CEST    59.2km/43km to go
The race enters Madrid. Will we see an attack on the Astana-led peloton?

16:54 CEST   
The riders cross the line for the first of eight times. The final time will be the finish.

16:55 CEST   
We have our first escape of the day with Manuel Ortega (Andalucía-Cajasur) and Serafín Martínez (Xacobeo Galicia).

16:56 CEST    63km/39.2km to go
They enjoy a slight bit of freedom, but Liquigas shuts it down.

17:03 CEST    68km/34.2km to go
We spot Tomas Vaitkus (Astana) helping his team keeping a grip on this move of three that has formed.

17:04 CEST   
Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas), Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur) and Emanuele Bindi (Lampre) are holding a gap of near 30 seconds on the Astana-led race.

17:08 CEST   
Madrid has had the Vuelta's finale since 1993 (see above) and it puts on a great show. The riders are zig-zagging their way around the city's most prominent avenues.

17:11 CEST   
Greg Van Avermaet (Silence-Lotto) will have to fight for this sprint. He is followed closely by Valverde, who could put up a fight. We guess that the Belgian will be able to handle his own over the 'Green Bullet.'

17:11 CEST    75.9km/26.3km to go
The trio hods 32 seconds.

17:15 CEST   
Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas) looks relaxed and cool. He crosses the finish line for the fourth time with the other two.

Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur) makes it into another escape
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

17:17 CEST   
Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur) is looking for his first win as a professional. Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas) had his last win in the 2005 Tour of Qinghai Lake. Bindi, placed in the top five in races, but never has scored a professional win.

17:20 CEST   
Cofidis is doing the dirty work here. The French team is keeping the three in check, who now hold 33 seconds.

17:20 CEST    82km/20.2km to go
The sun is out for the fans and the riders.

17:23 CEST   
Alberto Contador joins Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil and Felice Gimondi as the only riders to win all three Grand Tours. Contador did it faster than the other four though; he won the Tour of France in July 2007 and wins the third of three Grand Tours today, 14 months later.

17:25 CEST    87.2km/15km to go
We see CSC joining the front with a Crédit Agricole rider.

17:29 CEST   
Is CSC making way for Matti Breschel?

17:29 CEST   
The trio has nine seconds on the sixth of eight finish line crossings.

17:31 CEST   
Jesús Rosendo (Andalucía-Cajasur) kicks as the peloton closes. Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas) grasp on as Bindi is clawed back.

17:35 CEST   
The duo, Rosendo and Agnoli, is gone. Cofidis leads.

17:36 CEST   
Crédit Agricole is up front for Hinault, or maybe Roche.

17:36 CEST    96.2km/6km to go
The riders start the bell lap.

17:36 CEST   
Cofidis charges along; we see flashes of blue as Milram edges to the fore for Zabel.

17:37 CEST    96.9km/5.3km to go
CSC is back on the front. The charge of Euskaltel comes up on the left for Koldo Fernandez.

17:38 CEST   
It is all Euskaltel on the front. Can Fernandez get his win in the Vuelta?

17:38 CEST    98.2km/4km to go
Final 4000 metres.

17:39 CEST   
Euskaltel is washed away by Milram and CSC.

17:39 CEST    99.2km/3km to go
Will Wouter Weylandt (Quick Step) take another one? Watch out for the late charge by his Belgian team.

17:40 CEST   
A crash in the final metres. A FDJ and Liquigas rider.

17:41 CEST   
A Lotto rider is most heavily involved. Olivier Kaisen (Silence-Lotto), Ivan Santaromita (Liquigas) and Serafín Martínez (Xacobeo Galicia) are involved.

17:41 CEST   
Another crash.

17:41 CEST   
Assan Bazayev (Astana) goes down in a corner.

17:42 CEST   
Crédit Agricole has the lead.

17:42 CEST   
Quick Step is coming up...

17:42 CEST   
Van Avermaet is there.

17:42 CEST   
Matti Breschal seems to have it. He celebrates...

17:43 CEST   
Dane Matti Breschel (CSC-Saxo Bank) may have put the final polish on some strong CSC work today.

17:44 CEST   
That was fast, 59km/h.

Matti Breschel (CSC-Saxo Bank) takes it, with Alexandre Usov (AG2R La Mondiale) second.

17:44 CEST   
Greg Van Avermaet (Silence-Lotto) was up there and will have secured the blue points jersey.

17:46 CEST   
Contador becomes only one of five to have ever won all three Grand Tours.

17:47 CEST   
Italian Davide Viganò (Quick Step) made it home in third for that sprint.

17:49 CEST   
Thanks for joining us on this stage and the other 20 stages of the Vuelta a España. See you next week in Varese. Adios!

Provisional results

1 Matti Breschel (Den) CSC-Saxo Bank
2 Alexandre Usov (Blr) AG2R La Mondiale
3 Davide Viganò (Ita) Quick Step
4 Koldo Fernández (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
5 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Silence-Lotto
6 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Lampre
7 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner
8 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) Crédit Agricole
9 Loyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
10 Xavier Florencio (Spa) Bouygues Telecom
Final general classification
1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana
2 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC-Saxo Bank
4 Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
6 Joaquím Rodríguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
7 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
8 David Moncoutié (Fra) Cofidis
9 Egoi Martínez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
10 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre

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