Vuelta a España - Farrar wins on Nibali's day
Sun, 19 Sep 16:29:00 2010
Liquigas' Nibali becomes the fifth Italian to win the Vuelta a Espana and the first to do so since Marco Giovannetti's victory in 1990 when the race was still held in late April.
Winning the Vuelta aged just 25 and at his first attempt, Nibali has emulated triple Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, who achieved the same feat in 2008.
The Sicilian rode an intelligent race throughout the three-week race, foregoing stage wins for consistent finishes to take time off his rivals at every possible occasion.
Nibali secured his triumph with a gritty display of riding in the race's penultimate stage, which culminated in the tortuous summit finish atop the Bolo del Mundo ski resort in the Navacerrada mountains north of Madrid.
Despite a strong attack by his main rival, eventual runner-up Ezequiel Mosquera of Spain, Nibali held his nerve and maintained a 41-second lead going into the final stage.
If Saturday's stage 20 was a showdown between the race's two strongest all round competitors in Nibali and Mosquera, then Sunday's 85-kilometre stage 21 was billed as a head-to-head between the peloton's fastest men.
Green jersey Cavendish entered the day holding a 12-point lead in the points competition, and with a hat-trick of stage wins to his name this year the Manxman was overwhelming favourite to add to his impressive tally in Madrid.
But American sprinter Farrar proved too fast for Cavendish and secured his second win of the race with an imperious burst of pace at the end of 12 circuits around the centre of the Spanish capital.
"I've been feeling good throughout the Vuelta," Farrar said. "It's amazing. To win two stages is more than I could have hoped for."
Cavendish's second place, however, was enough to secure the green jersey for the HTC-Columbia rider. Astana's Allan Davis took third place in the stage, followed by Quick Step's Wouter Weylandt and Cavendish's team-mate Matt Goss.
"It's my first green jersey in a major Tour and that's something very special," said Cavendish.
"The Vuelta is different from other races because there are equal points on offer in the mountains and in the flats, but at the end of the day it's all about being consistent. I'm very happy for HTC-Columbia all round. We took five stages, led overall, and we got on the podium as well as the points. It has gone perfectly."
Earlier in the stage a five-man breakaway instigated by German Dominik Roels (Milram) had built up a slender lead of just over a minute. But the combined efforts of the sprinters' teams never allowed the gap to get too big, allowing for the showpiece sprint everyone was eager to see.
Cavendish looked to have a fourth victory in the bag, but Farrar times his surge to perfection, riding clear by a length on the opposite side of the wide final straight.
But the day will belong to Nibali, who secured the biggest win of his glittering early career. Clutching a bouquet of red flowers, Nibali shed a few tears as he mounted the podium in Madrid to receive his overall trophy.
The Italian beat Xacobeo-Galicia veteran Mosquera by 41 seconds in the overall standings, with Slovakia's Peter Velits of HTC-Columbia taking third place at 3:02.
"Ever since the race began I always said that I was here to win and that's what I did," Nibali said.
"I've had a great race and with the help of all the team I've succeeded but it wasn't at all easy.
"Everybody said I was the biggest threat of all the foreign riders, but that hasn't been extra pressure. I've had great form and that was really all that mattered."
France's David Moncoutie (Cofidis) won the King of the Mountains polka-dot jersey for a third successive year, while Nibali also won the white jersey for the race's best all-round rider.
Victory for Nibali, who finished third in May's Giro d'Italia, will mark him out as a major Grand Tour contender in the years to come alongside the likes of Contador, Andy Schleck and his Liquigas team-mate Ivan Basso.
The cycling season continues in two weeks' time with the World Championships in Melbourne, Australia, before the final major one-day races of the year, Paris-Tours and the Tour of Lombardy, in mid-October.
Vuelta a España : Stage 21