MADRID: Chris Froome paraded into Madrid to clinch his first Spanish Vuelta title and secure the elusive Tour de France-Vuelta double on Sunday, while Spanish great Alberto Contador celebrated the end of his remarkable career in front of his home crowd. Froome had virtually secured victory with a solid performance in the difficult climb up the Alto de lâ€™Angliru on Saturday, which marked the last competitive stage of the three-week race.
Riders cruised to the finish in Sundayâ€™s 21st stage, with the leaders not challenging each other, as per cycling tradition. Italian Matteo Trentin won the final sprint to clinch his fourth stage victory in this yearâ€™s Vuelta. Froome, who earlier this year clinched his fourth Tour de France title, had finished runner-up in La Vuelta three times, including last year.
The British rider of Team Sky became the third man to complete the Tour-Vuelta double in the same season, after Jacques Anquetil in 1963 and Bernard Hinault in 1978, when the Vuelta was still held in the spring before the Tour.
Froome, who won two Vuelta stages this year, ended 2 minutes, 15 seconds in front of Italian Vincenzo Nibali of Team Bahrain-Merida, who won the Vuelta in 2010 and was runner-up in 2013. Russian Ilnur Zakarin of Team Katusha Alpecin, secured the final podium spot, almost three minutes behind Froome. Contador, the three-time Vuelta winner, ended his career on a high note by winning Saturdayâ€™s difficult 20th stage. He was loudly cheered by Spanish fans as he arrived to cross the finish line one last time. The rest of the riders allowed him to break from the peloton and ride a few moments by himself as the fans applauded.
The 34-year-old Contador had been out of contention for the Vuelta title after losing several minutes in a poor performance in the second stage. He made up time later in the race, but not enough to make it to the podium and eventually finished fifth, more than three minutes off the lead. Considered one of Spainâ€™s greatest riders, Contador also won the Tour de France twice and the Giro dâ€™Italia twice. He was stripped of a third Tour victory for doping.