SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain (AFP) – Alberto Contador said he was “delighted” after winning his third Vuelta a Espana as Italian Adriano Malori took victory on the final stage 9.7km timetrial in Santiago de Compostela on Sunday.
Spaniard Contador finished 1min 40sec down on Malori on the rain-affected course as he took no chances.
But although he lost 27sec to Chris Froome, he did enough to add to his 2008 and 2012 Vuelta victories, taking his Grand Tour successes to six.
New Zealander Jesse Sergent and Australia’s Rohan Dennis were second and third on the stage at 8sec and 9sec respectively.
But the day belonged to Contador whose gritty win on Saturday’s 20th stage at Puerto de Ancares set the seal on an incredible triumph.
It was less than two months ago that the 31-year-old broke his leg in a crash that forced him out of the Tour de France.
“It’s two months since I crashed at the Tour de France and today I won the Vuelta,” said Contador.
“I’m delighted with this victory, it’s a dream for me to win three great Vuelta a Espanas.”
Contador admitted it had been difficult to come back from his broken tibia but he was determined not to let down his fans.
“In these last two months I had a lot of ups and downs in terms of morale, better days, worse days. I didn’t want to end this season with a crash,” he said.
“I want to thank the fans for their constant support and that’s why this victory is theirs.”
Froome broke his hand and wrist in a crash that also ended his defence of the Grand Boucle he won in 2013, but he did not recover as well or as quickly as Contador and had to settle for second overall.
“I think given how I’ve come into this race, I couldn’t be happier with this result,” said Froome.
“I didn’t know if I was coming here to fight for top 10, to fight for the podium or to fight for the win, so this is really going to give me a lot of motivation going forward.”
Despite his high finish, his Team Sky failed to win a single stage at any of the three Grand Tours this year, although Froome was not overly concerned by that.
“I think we can take away a lot from this race. As a group we’ve worked really well in the last three weeks, that’s going to give me a lot of motivation going forward,” he added.
Neither Contador nor Froome managed a particularly impressive final timetrial but that was mostly down to the weather.
While Malori, the Italian timetrial champion, set off and came home in 11min 12sec under blue skies, sunshine and on a dry course, that was not the case for everyone.
A torrential downpour seriously hampered the middle order and by the time the favourites set off at the end, the roads were still wet, making the tricky, technical course treacherous.
Movistar’s Malori admitted he had benefitted from the weather.
“It’s true, I rode when it was dry. It’s a great day, we started and ended the Vuelta with a spectacular victory and I was able to ride a dry course,” he said, referring to Movistar’s opening team timetrial success.
Contador finished down in 101st position with Froome 63rd and Alejandro Valverde, who ended up third overall, an impressive 33rd given the conditions he rode in.
For Valverde it was a sixth top three finish at the Vuelta, which he won in 2009.
“I’m a bit sad not to have won a stage but I congratulate my teammate Malori who rode a fantastic timetrial,” said Valverde, who will now turn his attentions to the World Championships, starting in a week.
“(Spanish) national team selector Javier Minguez has told me the whole team will be riding for me,” he added.