Spanish Grand Tour comes to its close in Madrid
Telefónica-backed squad rounds out four consecutive decades in the biggest Spanish race with a 17th overall individual podium with brilliant Alejandro Valverde, 2nd in GC, plus two stage wins and their 11th team GC, an all-time record.
Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic (TJV) confirmed his maiden victory in a three-week stagerace by covering with no incidents the 106km final stage of the 2019 Vuelta a España on Sunday, starting from Fuenlabrada and finishing with the traditional laps of the Madrid city centre circuit. Fabio Jakobsen (DQT) notched up the victory at the inevitable bunch sprint, after which Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) crossed the line unscathed to seal his 2nd spot in the general classification.
Valverde’s podium, a World Champion in the final picture of La Vuelta more than four decades after Freddy Maertens’ 1977 victory, marks the Spaniard’s ninth appearance in the top-3 of a Grand Tour and his seventh in Spain, a record of longevity with 16 years between his first and (so far) last podium. The marvel from Murcia, who has ammassed an impressive 19 top-ten finishes in three-week stageraces, made his rainbow jersey shine even brighter with a stage win (Mas de la Costa, st. 7), to add to the one obtained exactly three weeks ago today by Nairo Quintana (Calpe, st. 2), eventually 4th in the GC.
The Movistar Team, which wrapped up on Sunday its 40th consecutive appearance in their home Grand Tour, stepped onto the Cibeles podium twice as they conquered the teams’ classification -Giro, Tour and Vuelta won by Eusebio Unzué’s squad in 2019; five consecutive victories since the 2018 TDF-, the 11th win for the Abarca Sports organisation as an all-time record, tied until today with the legendary KAS outfit. A well-deserved recognition to the efforts by Marc Soler (9th, his first-ever GT top-ten), Arcas, Erviti, Oliveira, Pedrero and Rojas, who reached the last finish line in Madrid together.
OVERVIEW from Eusebio Unzué:
“It’s been long since we ran out of adjectives to value what Alejandro has done when we start such an overview. He continues to surprise us despite his age: it’s not that he remains at the same level as in previous years, rather than actually improving his form and results from last year at both Grand Tours he’s taken part in. Taking 2nd place again in a three-week stagerace, notching up a brilliant stage victory against all GC contenders, riding so consistently throughout the three weeks – It’s so comforting to see him doing so well for another year, and so great to be able to enjoy everything he does alongside him.”
“Nairo has proven again his professionalism during this Vuelta. He’s always given his best, and he’s even had a shot at the overall podium for the entire race, one he only came just short for yesterday. It’s been a Vuelta on par with his most recent Grand Tour performances. You can’t deny his commitment to do things right, and even at the Guadalajara stage he made us dreamt of being able to reach again the race lead, on a terrain completely opposite to his natural skills, on a flat course and against strong winds. His efforts and his ability to stay always where it’s required at the right moments of the race have always been really appreciated.“
“Imanol, Nelson, Rojas and Arcas have also made a priceless contribution, so important for the results obtained, authors of that satisfactory work, maybe hidden from the spotlight, yet remarkable to take care of their leaders. Same can be said about Pedrero, who was racing his second Grand Tour this year and proved again his enormous skills to drive the pace for the team in the mountains. Regarding Marc, and other than that moment in Andorra which – I hold no doubts about it – will help him mature and build a stronger foundation for his career, we’ve seen a rider well prepared for – in the close future – GC contention against the very best in one of the Grand Tours. I’m so satisfied with everything he’s brought to the table so Nairo and Alejandro could reach as far as possible.”
“I’m also enormously satisfied with that victory in the teams’ classification, which I feel like we deserved. There has been really strong squads to contest it against, most notably Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma team and Astana, who were really powerful in this Vuelta. Our consistency over the most demanding stages of the race has allowed us leading a team GC which also makes us become the team with most wins ever, those 19 triumphs in Vuelta, Giro and Tour which put us on par with another squad with a great sense of team effort, KAS, which also won all three Grand Tours in the same year. Having a chance to step onto the Madrid podium together is a great reward for us and, more importantly, for the riders, after their commitment during the past three weeks.”
“I want to congratulate Roglic on his victory. He’s the present, and also the future, of this sport in the big stageraces of the calendar. At one-week races we already witnessed details of world-class quality from him, and here at La Vuelta he’s proven to be more than ready to handle the effort of three weeks, supported by a great team. He’s been the strongest and most consistent in this Vuelta. Then there’s Pogacar. What he’s done is impressive. We knew about his quality, but we can’t remember someone so young, barely 20 years old, offering such exhibitions and keeping such a regular level over three weeks in his first-ever Grand Tour. He thoroughly deserves to be on the podium.”
Cover picture (c): Photo Gomez Sport