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Vuelta Stage 21: Sagan wins in Madrid, Cobo seals overall victory

Froome & Wiggins complete podium for Team Sky, Mollema edges Rodriguez for points jersey

Juan Jose Cobo has this afternoon been confirmed as the winner of the 2011 Vuelta a Espana, with Team Sky's Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins completing the podium, making this the most successful Grand Tour ever for Great Britain in terms of the overall placings. Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Cannondale edged out Leopard Trek's Daniele Bennati and Lampre ISD's Alessandro Petacchi to win the bunch sprint in Madrid, his third stage victory in this year's race. Rabobank's Bauke Mollema finished ninth to pip Katusha's Joaquin Rodrigez to the green points jersey.

Cobo’s winning margin of 13 seconds makes this 66th edition of the race the joint third closest ever. In theory, there were up to 32 bonus seconds available to Froome today – 6 at each of the two intermediate sprints, and 20 if he won the stage, although with a number of riders targeting the final sprint, the latter was always likely to be beyond Froome’s reach.

While tradition dictates that the final stage of the Vuelta, like the Tour de France, is pretty much a procession for the GC contenders, the Geox-TMC rider certainly wasn’t taking his victory for granted.

Speaking prior to the start of today’s stage, Froome himself pointed out that he still had a slim chance of winning and would fight for the red jersey, but a three-man breakaway group heading off up the road ahead of the first of two intermediate sprints pretty much put paid to any lingering hopes he had.

Those three escapees - Joan Horrach of Katusha, Jose Alberto Benitez from Andalucia-Caja Granada and the Liquigas-Cannondale rider Damiano Caruso - were reeled in with a little over 10 kilometres to go.

Coming into the final kilometre, Leopard Trek’s Robert Wagner was leading the peloton, seeking to launch team mate Bennati to his second successive stage win, but instead it was Petacchi who came out of his slipstream.

The Lampre-ISD rider couldn’t quite sustain his drive for the line, however, as the 21-year-old Sagan came through to cap what has been a fantastic debut Grand Tour.

Cobo, who has stuck to Froome like a limpet these past few days, came over the line in 20th position, one behind the Team Sky rider, a huge grin breaking out on the face of the Cantabrian rider who this week has often looked like a man with the cares of the world on his shoulders, rather than the Vuelta leader's jersey.

When the riders rolled out from the Circuito del Jarama motor racing circuit this morning, Mollema and Rodriguez had been tied on 115 points each, with the Spaniard holding the advantage due to his having won two stages.

Mollema, however, picked up 7 points for finishing the stage in 9th place, with Rodriguez not featuring in the lead group of 60 riders that contested the finish, the katusha man crossing the line 36 seconds later.

David Moncoutié of Cofidis had already sealed his fourth consecutive victory in the mountains competition yesterday, while Cobo also ended the race on top of the combined classification, with his Geox-TMC outfit adding the team prize.

Vuelta Stage 21 Result 
1  SAGAN, Peter             Liquigas-Cannondale     2h 20' 59''
2  BENNATI, Daniele         Leopard Trek         All at same time
3  PETACCHI, Alessandro     Lampre-ISD
4  DEGENKOLB, John          HTC-Highroad
5  MAES, Nikolas            Quick Step
6  LIGTHART, Pim            Vacansoleil-DCM
7  SUTTON, Chris            Team Sky
8  DE KORT, Koen            Skil-Shimano
9  MOLLEMA, Bauke           Rabobank
10 REYNES, Vicente          Omega Pharma-Lotto
11 MORENO, Daniel           Katusha
12 WIGGINS, Bradley         Team Sky
13 GASPAROTTO, Enrico       Astana
14 PAOLINI, Luca            Katusha
15 HAEDO, Juan Jose         Saxo Bank-SunGard
16 DE LA FUENTE, David      Geox-TMC
17 NIBALI, Vincenzo         Liquigas-Cannondale
18 LAGUTIN, Sergey          Vacansoleil-DCM
19 FROOME, Chris            Team Sky
20 COBO, Juan José          Geox-TMC

Vuelta Final Overall Standings 
1  COBO, Juan José          Geox-TMC                84h 59' 31''
2  FROOME, Chris            Team Sky                      + 13''
3  WIGGINS, Bradley         Team Sky                   + 1' 39''
4  MOLLEMA, Bauke           Rabobank                   + 2' 03''
5  MENCHOV, Denis           Geox-TMC                   + 3' 48''
6  MONFORT, Maxime          Leopard Trek               + 4' 13''
7  NIBALI, Vincenzo         Liquigas-Cannondale        + 4' 31''
8  VAN DEN BROECK, Jurgen   Omega Pharma-Lotto         + 4' 45''
9  MORENO, Daniel           Katusha                    + 5' 20''
10 NIEVE, Mikel             Euskaltel-Euskadi          + 5' 33''

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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