Leganés to Madrid 110km
After one of the most mountainous Vueltas in history, the 144 survivors of yesterday's stage up the Angliru lined up in the Madrid suburb of Leganés to take a circuitous route to Madrid, then race eight circuits, finishing on the Paseo del Prado for 110km (68.4mi) of racing.
With the route flat, sprinters aching to showcase their talent on a finish that suits their strengths, and the general classification riders waving the white flag, the race was largely a parade and giant photo op from the moment the racers passed kilometer zero to the entry of Madrid.
Cannondale Pro Cycling, which came with a team built to support Ivan Basso, was forced to change tactics on Stage Fourteen, when Basso succumbed to hypothermia as his teammate, Daniele Ratto, was en route to winning the stage at Collada de la Gallina. The team rode aggressively for the remainder of the Vuelta, but with this final stage almost certainly finishing in a bunch gallop, they knew they had little chance at a stage win.
RadioShack, as per tradition, led the peloton in service of their leader, Red Jersey Chris Horner. When the pace is slow, it's both an obligation and honor. And they brought the field home to Madrid.
With 37km (23mi) remaining in the Vuelta, Caja Rural's Javier Aramendia started the festivities by attacking solo. His team, a wildcard invitee, has been one of the most active at this Vuelta, and Aramendia, the most active of his 'mates. He was quickly joined by Alessandro Vanotti of Astana, and the two rode as one, soldiering on despite huge odds against them.
The duo was most dynamic. Defying the odds, they hung out there with a small lead lap after lap. They were only caught at the start of the final lap, after Garmin-Sharp and several teams combined to chase them down with four kilometers (2.5mi) remaining.
Garmin-Sharp was joined by Orica-Greenedge, Argos-Shimano, and Sky, all looking to guide their sprinter to perfect position with 200 meters remaining to give him an edge in the sprint for the stage win.
The last turn was a 180-degreee bend and occurred a bit over one kilometer before the finish line. Orica had control, and looked set to bring the victory to Michael Matthews. But Garmin's Tyler Farrar was keen to ruin the party and jumped at the perfect moment. Only he didn't have the speed to finish the job. Matthews passed him to win the stage. Farrar finished second.
Horner, who finished safely in the peloton, was crowned champion of the Vuelta, with Astana's Vincenzo Nibali second, and Movistar's Alejandro Valverde third.
Ratto's tally of King of the Mountains points gave him third in that competition. It's a great result for the young rider, and a sign of things to come.
Thanks for tuning in to Cannondale's coverage of the 2013 Vuelta a España. The team may be tired from three weeks of racing, but after a short break, they'll be ready for the World Road Championships and then primed for the final month of the international road racing season. Look for the green of Cannondale Pro Cycling at the front of every pro race.
Vuelta a España 2013
Stage 21: Leganés to Madrid
1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 2:44:00
2. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp same time
3. Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano same time
4. Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step same time
5. Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida same time
Stage Results Cannondale Pro Cycling
11. Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) same time
12. Daniele Ratto (Ita) same time
31. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 0:00:03
64. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) same time
92. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) 0:00:20
109. Maciej Paterski (Pol) 0:00:34
139. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 0:01:31
Final General Classification
1.Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 84:36:04
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:37
3. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:36
4. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 0:03:22
5. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:07:11
Final General Classification Cannondale Pro Cycling
54. Maciej Paterski (Pol) 2:03:20
57. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) 2:07:58
89. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 3:02:11
95. Daniele Ratto (Ita) 3:11:50
99. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 3:22:56
111. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) 3:46:01
139. Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) 4:28:21
1. Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 46 pts
2. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 32
3. Daniele Ratto (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling 30
4. Andre Fernando S. Martins Cardoso (Por) Caja Rural 26
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 23