It was a vastly different finish for Primož Roglič at the Vuelta a España compared to two months ago at the Tour de France.
- Primož Roglič won the three week, 2,908km Vuelta a España by just 24 seconds
- Roglič was favourite to win the Tour de France in September, but imploded on the penultimate stage to finish second
- Richard Carapaz of Ecuador came second, with British rider Hugh Carthy a surprise third.
This time, Roglič was celebrating a Grand Tour victory instead of dwelling on a late collapse that cost him the win.
On Sunday, Roglič clinched his second consecutive Vuelta title with an uneventful final ride into Madrid in Sunday’s largely ceremonial stage, solidifying his status as a top rider.
The 31-year-old Slovenian from team Jumbo-Visma had virtually sealed the victory in Stage 17 the day prior, but it was not without some nervous moments.
With the mental scars of his Tour de France capitulation still raw, Roglič would have feared the worst as his closest challenger, Richard Carapaz, broke away in the final few kilometres of Saturday’s stage in a desperate attempt to claw back the required 45 seconds.
However, Roglič rallied and just about held onto the coat-tails of Carapaz, who could only make up 21 seconds and had to settle for second — which made him the first Ecuadorean rider to finish on the podium at the Vuelta.
“We were just enjoying [the ride],” Roglič said.
It was the second Grand Tour win for Roglič, who had been in contention at the Tour de France until the last competitive day, when he dramatically imploded to hand victory to his fellow Slovenian, Tadej Pogačar.
He won four stages at the Vuelta this year, including the first. Last year he had one stage victory.
Roglič had previously taken steps to atone for his Tour defeat with victory at the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic, capitalising when world champion Julian Alaphilippe prematurely celebrated victory.
Roglič has become the first rider to win the Vuelta’s overall standings and the points classification two years in a row.
“It’s really beautiful to win the red jersey and the green jersey to finish this year,” he said.
British rider Hugh Carthy finished a surprise third at the three-week race across Spain, with Dan Martin fourth and Enric Mas fifth.
Pascal Ackermann defeated Sam Bennett in a photo finish at the deciding sprint of the final stage, which lacked the huge crowds of previous editions in the Spanish capital because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Vuelta finished without major disruptions despite a surge of coronavirus cases in Spain.
Tight health restrictions were in place for the race that was originally scheduled for late August and early September but was postponed because of the pandemic.
This Vuelta had only 18 stages instead of the usual 21. The sixth stage had to be altered to avoid going into French territory, and organizers had already cancelled plans to hold the first three stages in the Netherlands and to have two stages enter neighbouring Portugal.
A facial-recognition phone app replaced the traditional signature of riders at the start of each stage to reduce contact with pens and surfaces, and fans were asked not to gather at finish lines.
Riders, team members and race staff were constantly tested for COVID-19.