La Vuelta 21: Miracles rarely happen

Not yesterday. 
Adriano Malori won a short final tt against almost nobody, dued to the changed weather condition - he rode dry, it was rainy for the others - and to the abandons of his main contenders (Tony Martin, Fabian Cancellara, Dario Cataldo...). That was expected and Malori deserved to win given that he endured the whole three racing weeks. Very good Jesse Sergent for TFR.
Alberto Contador won La Vuelta against a strong, generous, brave Chris Froome, who gave all but it wasn't enough, and against Valverde, who in my opinion was in a splendid shape, better than Froome's, but worse directed. Team Tinkoff-Saxo raced well but Team Sky raced WOW, planning and puting in place a smart strategy. Team Tinkoff-Saxo didn't need that: Contador was so strong he could control. And it was absolutely unespected after his crash in the Tour de France. He deserved to win given that he demonstrated to be the strongest.
On the final podium Froome was on the wrong step (as 3rd) and La Gazzetta says that happened also in 2011.
Once again La Vuelta has been the most beautiful among the Grand Tours. In the next days I'll take the time to sum it up.

Adriano Malori:
"I’ve been working as a teammate for the whole Vuelta except for yesterday, when the team told me to save energ. But with 4,000 metres of climbing, you can imagine how hard it was to save myself. But I felt very good. I immediately realised I was riding one of my best time trials of the season and that was confirmed by the watts I put out. I beat riders such as Jesse Sergent, who also rode before the rain, so I can be happy.
I'm super happy. I didn't know how things could turn out today after all the work I had to do for my team leaders during the whole Vuelta. Luckily, the team gave me a free ticket to recover during yesterday's stage and I could tackle this time trial at 100% focus. We knew it could rain and also that all favourites but the GC contenders, riders like Dennis, Sergent or Vandewalle, started during the first hour. When I knew I had taken eight seconds on Sergent, which looked to me like a strong favourite, I realized I had many chances to win. He put to seconds on me through the intermediate, but the second part was more for strong rouleurs, suiting me better. The watts I produced were close to the highest level I found in my time trials this season, and that means I finished the Vuelta in good condition. It's a prize for as well the team as for myself. After what happened with Nairo, leaving with three stages and Alejandro's podium is quite a thing. Now we travel to Ponferrada really excited about what we can do in the Worlds - I hope to do well there." 

Jesse Sergent:
“I felt like I had a good ride. I checked the course three times, looked at the map in the race book, pretty much had every corner in my head. But it was definitely a surprise this morning to see that the course was not pan flat like it showed in the race book; there was a pretty steep down hill, steep uphill, the corners were not too bad, only a couple where you had to be careful. But it was not as straightforward as we all thought.
I really tried to lay it on the line, everywhere on the course, and with it only being 9k I didn’t maybe have the chance to ride my own pace up the climbs and try and bring it back on the flats, I really had to go full-gas and take the risk of blowing up.
It was like a sprint at the start and then nearly going 90kmh down a hill to a full brake into a right hand turn and already it starts climbing.  It was definitely a lot of changes in speed and that’s one thing that hurts the most after three weeks of racing.
It’s the last day of a Grand Tour, and everyone has different feelings at this point. The last few days have not been easy for me, and throughout the tour I have been a little bit up and down, but today I felt like I had it. And days like today, especially for riders like me who don’t get many chances in a Grand Tour, I really wanted to make the most of it and leave it all out there.
It’s hard to finish second because I feel like I have really been chasing a win in the time trial this year, but there has always been someone faster. It’s been a little bit hard - every TT this year I have been competitive but it would be nice to have one victory instead of a whole heap of top fives. But it’s motivation for the two time trials that are left: the World’s TTT and the individual. The team time trial, I think, we have a chance.”

Alberto Contador:
"I am very happy with this victory. It’s a dream for me to win three Vueltas. I’ve had many highs and lows over the past two months, but I didn’t want to finish the season with a fall. The public have encouraged me, they’ve been incredible. They’ve given me the strength to get to this point. This victory is for them."

Team Tinkoff-Saxo DS, Steven De Jongh:

"It's simply an astonishing achievement by Alberto. Coming back from an injury like that after declaring himself out a couple of weeks before the Vuelta and not only rides well but takes the win, is just amazing. We entered the race hoping that we could get a stage win in the last week of the race but as the race progressed and Alberto felt stronger by the day, we had to change strategy and go for the overall classification. So, with two stage wins in the pocket, the combined jersey as well as the overall win, we couldn't be happier"

Chris Froome:
"I did everything I could, I have no regrets. We pushed together [in Team Sky] as a unit.
Alberto was very impressive in this Vuelta, if I've learned anything in this year's Vuelta, it's not to let him get any time because I'm not going to get it back from him.
I wouldn't say it's a cause for concern, I know how I came into this race and i definitely rode myself in. 
I definitely owe this result to my teammates, they stood behind me and supported me even when I had a few bad days earlier on in the race. I think in the end it paid off and I was able to come away with a second place, which given how I came in, I can be happy with that.
I look forward to seeing what the Tour route holds, although right now I'm still focussed on the Vuelta and what I did here.
I'm looking forward to a good winter. The Vuelta had a very high standard and I'm happy to be a part of it."

Alejandro Valverde:
"I'm really satisfied with this third place and my performance through the last three weeks. Save for misfortune with Nairo's crash, the team was a-plus. I think having Nairo still with us during the second part of the race would have changed things and make the race different for us. Still, I think this podium is a fair prize to all the work we did - we also claimed three stage wins, which is also prestigious and important. It's yet another podium finish for me in the Vuelta - already six since I became a pro. I don't think this hasn't been done many times before and I'm really happy. My season has been really consistent: I won races right from the beginning in Andalusia, I was there in the classics, the Tour... but despite all of that, I don't feel tired. Contrary to what usually happens, every seasons seems to me like shorter than the previous ones, more than when I was younger. I'm still excited about the sport, the racing, willing to give my best in what's left this season, with two beautiful goals in the Worlds and Lombardy."

Samule Sanchez:
"We put on a very good race for cycling fans and I am proud to have contributed to it. As for the team and me, I can say we always worked at the top level and we fought together to get the best result possible. For sure I was a little bit step under the first five riders in the overall. But I am happy about that because my year was a bit peculiar. Now I will prepare for the world championships in Spain." 

John Degenkolb:
“I’m really happy. It’s hard to find the right words. Today, when Alberto crossed the line or when I saw that it was still wet for him and I realized it was going to be hard for him to beat Malori’s time, I was a little bit more relaxed. I went full gas today to maybe also get some points but in the end, everything is fine. The green jersey is a great reward for the whole team. I’m really happy to win my first green jersey in a Grand Tour.
It’s very unique for me. It’s been another very beautiful Vuelta. I like Spain, because of the variations of landscapes and weather conditions. I like the Vuelta. It’s unbelievable, it’s great to be here in Santiago for the celebrations, I really enjoyed the three weeks of racing. It gave me a lot of motivation and a lot of energy for the coming weeks.”

Team Katusha DS José Azevedo.
"This is very nice after three weeks on the road to win the Teams GC on a big tour. It’s also well deserved for the team. We fought to win a stage and a big effort came from every team riders so to be on the podium is good. We also finish with all 9 riders. We planned to come here with a very strong team and everyone prepared 100% in their condition to be here. The nine riders all acted as professionals as they came to this Vuelta. We explained from the beginning that the strategy of the team would be to ride for our leader Joaquim Rodriquez. It was our goal and everyone had the same mentality. When you look at our team you don’t see the separation of nationalities, you see one team. I don’t see any stages where we could have done more. We took our obligations to control the breaks and Katusha was at the front over and over. I am very proud of our team and they deserved to stand on the podium today. The spirit of the riders and staff was so perfect these three weeks. We saw dedication from every single person on Team Katusha"

Joaquim Rodriguez:
"In the end I am happy with my fourth place. Of course I hoped for more but I did everything I could to achieve more and I think I finished in the correct place. In cycling it’s all about force and three other guys appeared to be stronger this time. At times I missed that little something extra. Perhaps I lost unnecessary time in stage 16 when I felt I had the power to go faster, but the tactics of the race decided otherwise. But it makes no sense to look back. Done is done and that’s cycling. It’s more than pedaling – it’s a combination of race circumstances, tactics, competitors and weather. But the fact to stand on the overall podium with my teammates in Santiago de Compostela makes me happy. As a team we performed so well. It is nice to give this present to the fans and our sponsors.
It was a pleasure to be cheered so much by the fans on the roadside. They yelled ‘Purito!’ and ‘Katusha!’ and that pushed me forward. I believe I am popular with the fans because I am a fighter and I like that I’m a fighter. I never give up. In the end 2014 did not bring what I’d hoped for. It started so well with the WorldTour victory in Catalunya, but then came crashes in both the Amstel Gold Race and the Giro d’Italia. It disrupted my buildup during the season, but you cannot say that the season was a disaster. Perhaps without these things happening I would have been at the same level as I was in 2012 and 2013. But my season is not yet over. The World Championships and Lombardia are both races which I am looking forward too."

Team Belkin DS Erik Dekker:
“That was a problem. Our strongest men rode in the rain. That’s not what you want of course. Fortunately, Wilco remained upright. It’s nice that he gained one spot.
A lot has happened. We’ve had some bad luck with Robert Gesink. He had to leave the race as seventh overall, but hopefully his wife is fine. That’s the most important thing. We always focused on our chances. We tried to win a stage, but unfortunately that did not work out." 

Wilco Kelderman:
“It was very wet and slippery. On the straights, I was able to go as hard as I wanted, but still, rain is never beneficial for your time.
It’s been a slightly disappointing Vuelta. I wasn’t as good as hoped and suffered a lot. I can’t name any real highlights, but hopefully this race will make me stronger.” 

Stef Clement:
“Ten seconds before my start, it started to rain. I did what I could, but already missed the first corner. On the straights I was able to push my watts, but in the corners I really lost a lot of time. It’s been dry the whole Vuelta and today, it rained. Well, things like that happen, unfortunately.” 

Laurens ten Dam
“It was a tough Vuelta. Just like in the Tour, I was there in the first mountain stage in, but after that I had some small problems. I’m really tired now. My season is done after today. I’ll enjoy a vacation and prepare for next year."

1 Adriano Malori (Ita) Movistar Team 0:11:12  
2 Jesse Sergent (NZl) Trek Factory Racing 0:00:08  
3 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:09  
4 Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Team Sky 0:00:17  
5 Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Team Europcar  
6 Sergei Chernetski (Rus) Team Katusha 0:00:18  
7 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Cannondale  
8 Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
9 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek Factory Racing 
10 Damien Gaudin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
11 Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Trek Factory Racing 0:00:19  
12 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:21  
13 Sam Bewley (NZl) Orica Greenedge 0:00:22  
14 Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano 0:00:24 
15 Patrick Gretsch (Ger) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:27  
16 Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto Belisol 0:00:28  
17 Gert Joeaar (Est) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:00:29  
18 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek Factory Racing 0:00:30  
19 Vegard Breen (Nor) Lotto Belisol 0:00:38  
20 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano 0:00:39  
1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 81:25:05 
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:01:10  3
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:50  
4 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha 0:03:25  
5 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:04:48  
6 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team 0:09:30  
7 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin Sharp 0:10:38  
8 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano 0:11:50  
9 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale 0:12:50  
10 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:13:02 
11 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:16:44  
12 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Team Sky 0:19:54  
13 Romain Sicard (Fra) Team Europcar 0:24:20  
14 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:25:04  
15 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Team Katusha 0:25:27  
16 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto Belisol 0:29:52  
17 Sergio Pardilla Bellon (Spa) MTN - Qhubeka 0:32:00  
18 Dominik Nerz (Ger) BMC Racing Team 0:37:25  
19 Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:42:04  
20 David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Caja Rural - Seguros RGA 0:52:51  
1 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano
1 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Caja Rural - Seguros RGA
1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo
1 Team Katusha

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