Cobo holds off Team Sky pair
Juan José Cobo was crowned the overall winner of the Vuelta a Espana after edging out Brits Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins.
By Jonathan Turner
Last Updated: 12/09/11 11:09am
Geox rider Juan José Cobo was crowned the overall winner of the Vuelta a Espana after edging out Team Sky pair Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins as Peter Sagan (Liquigas) took the final stage in Madrid.
Sagan just overhauled Daniele Bennati (Leopard Trek) and Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) at the end of a largely celebratory final stage over 94.2 kilometres.
But the day belonged to Spaniard Cobo along with Froome and Wiggins, who made history by becoming the first two Brits to make the podium in one of cycling's Grand Tours since Robert Millar at the 1987 Giro d'Italia.
"It's the pinnacle of a rider's career to win his country's own Tour and this is a very special day for me and the team," said an emotional Cobo afterwards.
Team Sky duo Froome and Wiggins finished second and third respectively, 13 seconds and 1:39 behind Cobo, in what was a landmark result for the team.
It completed a memorable Vuelta for Team Sky who had seen that pair in the leader's red jersey at various points of the race while the team also won two stages during the course of the three weeks, Chris Sutton taking stage two while Froome claimed an epic victory over Cobo in the race's final mountain-top finish on Wednesday.
Since then the Kenyan-born Brit had done everything he could to try and overhaul Cobo's 13 seconds advantage but opportunities were limited and his Spanish rival held firm throughout.
That was very much the story on the largely celebratory final stage over 94.2 kilometres around Madrid, with the focus instead on the sprinters.
The other classification which was decided on the last day of the season's final Grand Tour was the points ranking, with Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) edging out Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), with Froome sixth in those standings and second behind Cobo in the combined category.
Afterwards Froome reflected on what was a breakthrough performance, telling www.teamsky.com: "I'm over the moon and it was an experience of a lifetime. Over the last week when it became clear that my early form and time trial performance were not one-off results I really began to enjoy myself and came to the realisation that I can now compete with some of the best GC riders in the world.
"It’s been really enjoyable and the best thing has been having my family over here to see me in the red jersey and also win a stage. The highlight for me was definitely winning that 17th stage at the top of the Pena Cabarga climb; it was a special day and will live long in my memory.
"Hopefully I’ve done something good for the team but I wouldn’t have been in this position if it wasn’t for everyone else. The other riders have worked so hard over the last three weeks to keep myself and Bradley protected.
"The support staff and the people behind the scenes were also amazing and they don’t get enough credit for what they do. It’s them that have got us here and I’m so happy that myself and Bradley finished on the podium."
Wiggins too was understandably delighted after a remarkable comeback so soon after his broken collarbone. He told his team's website: "Thinking back to where I was a couple of months ago it’s a fantastic feeling to finish on the podium here and obviously it’s a massive result for the team to have Froomey on the podium with me too.
"With my shoulder as it was this race was always going to be a bit of a testing ground for me and I’m really happy with the way I’ve been able to ride.
"This race has proved that what happened two years ago at the Tour de France was no fluke and I know in my mind now that I have what it takes to match strong riders at the Tour next year.
"Froomey deserves massive praise for the way he’s ridden this race. He buried himself for me during those first two weeks and has been able to maintain his form right the way through to today. He’s produced ride after ride and also got his deserved stage win – I’m delighted for him."
The day had seen the riders set out from Circuito del Jarama but the bunch was altogether starting out on the city circuits in Madrid before a three-man break comprising José Alberto Benítez (Andalucia), Damiano Caruso (Liquigas) and Joan Horrach (Katusha) escaped on the third lap.
They extended their advantage to a high of 51 seconds but they were always within range as the sprinters' teams lined up to lead their men out at the finish, Sagan and Liquigas just having the final say.