Roglic eyes third successive Vuelta crown in 2021

MADRID (AFP) – Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic hinted he could try for a third consecutive success at the Vuelta a Espana after winning the race for the second time in as many years on Sunday.

Jumbo-Visma’s Roglic became the first rider to defend the Vuelta since Roberto Heras in 2005, with Germany’s Pascal Ackermann clinching the 18th and final stage victory in Madrid.

“It’s beautiful to be on the podium again,” said Roglic who had suffered a dramatic Tour de France collapse with victory in sight in September.

“2020 was quite a special year because of the coronavirus crisis, so I wish everybody good health. I’d like to thank the race organisers for making it happen.

“It’s nice to win the red and green jersey at the end of my season,” Roglic added. “So thank you very much and see you next year.”

Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz finished runner-up after leading the general classification for five stages and putting Roglic under intense pressure in the penultimate stage on Saturday.

But Roglic rallied to avoid another collapse and instead took a 24-second advantage into the last day, which he maintained to cross the line as a worthy champion.

Britain’s Hugh Carthy secured third place while Ireland’s Dan Martin and Spaniard Enric Mas completed the top five.

Roglic’s triumph will taste particularly sweet after his nightmare on the Tour de France when he fell away at the end, allowing compatriot Tadej Pogacar to claim first place.

There was no flinching this time around, the 31-year-old a deserved winner and arguably rider of the year at the end of an unprecedented season.

Ackermann of Bora-Hansgrohe edged the final stage win in a photo-finish with Sam Bennett of Deceuninck-Quick Step. Sunweb’s Max Kanter came third.

Bennett looked like he might edge it when the Irishman powered through in a fast and furious last 100 metres but Ackermann held on.

“I wasn’t sure who won at the finish and I was asking Sam who won,” said Ackermann.

“The team are so happy about the victory and I have to say thank you to my teammates. I think that today was an amazing lead-out. You could see it on the television. I’m really happy to take the victory, and I’m just so happy.”

The day though belonged to Roglic, who had never been lower than fourth in the overall race and now has a second success to go with his 11 stage wins in the Grand Tours.

It was a final-stage procession for Roglic, who linked arms with Carapaz and Carthy en route to Madrid, with the podium separated by only 75 seconds.

“My whole team is special and we’ve done special things all year,” Roglic had said earlier.