Primoz Roglic became the first Slovenian to win a Grand Tour when he was crowned Vuelta a Espana champion by completing Sunday’s processional final stage into Madrid.
Having done the hard work over the previous three weeks, Roglic successfully defended his sizeable lead over second-placed Alejandro Valverde in the 21st stage of the race, a 106.6km ride from Fuenlabada to the centre of Madrid.
Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen claimed the stage victory while world champion Valverde finished 19th in the stage, 17 seconds ahead of Roglic, who ended the race two minutes 16 seconds ahead of the Spaniard overall.
Roglic’s compatriot Tadej Pogacar took the final position on the podium, two minutes 38 seconds back, rounding off a stunning race for the 20-year-old, who earned three stage wins on his Grand Tour debut.
“Winning this race is a great feeling and to be up here with another Slovenian makes it even better, it’s great news for cycling in our country,” Roglic said from the podium outside the Cibeles Palace in Madrid.
“I haven’t had time to think about all of this, but all I know is that me and the team rode together to make history.”
Roglic was among the favourites to win a Vuelta lacking in household names and showed remarkable consistency throughout the race, despite a rocky start which saw him and his Jumbo-Visma team-mates involved in a mass crash on the opening stage.
The Slovenian lost 40 seconds to early leader Miguel Angel Lopez as a result of that crash but came flying back into contention on stage 10 with a superb victory on the individual time trial to take the red jersey from Nairo Quintana.
His time trial exploits gave him a commanding lead of three minutes and although Quintana and Valverde traded places as Roglic’s closest challenger, the Slovenian rarely looked like surrendering his advantage.
He did suffer a scare when he crashed on stage 19 and Valverde’s Movistar team attacked to the outrage of many in the peloton as cycling etiquette dictates that no attacks are allowed if a race leader crashes or has a mechanical issue.
Valverde eventually caved in to the protests and Roglic was allowed to catch up with the peloton, and he virtually sealed the overall victory by surviving Saturday’s gruelling mountain stage to Plataforma de Gredos.
Final General classification
1 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma 83hrs 7mins 31secs
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team at 2mins 16secs
3 Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates at 2mins 38secs
4 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team at 3mins 29secs
5 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team at 4mins 31secs
6 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe at 7mins 16secs
7 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb at 9mins 47secs
8 Carl Fredrik Hagen (Nor) Lotto Soudal at 12mins 54secs
9 Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar Team at 22mins 10secs
10 Mikel Nieve (Spa) Mitchelton-Scott at 22mins 17secs
11 James Knox (Gbr) Deceuninck-QuickStep at 22mins 52secs
20 Tao Geoghegan Hart (Gbr) Team Ineos at 1hrs 4mins 4secs
70 Owain Doull (Gbr) Team Ineos at 3hrs 7mins 55secs
106 Ian Stannard (Gbr) Team Ineos at 4hrs 5mins 22secs
134 Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe at 4hrs 41mins 27secs
Stage 21 Result (Fuenlabrada – Madrid 106km)
1 Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Deceuninck-QuickStep 2hrs 48mins 20secs
2 Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe
3 Szymon Sajnok (Pol) CCC Team
4 Jon Aberasturi Izaga (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data
6 Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
7 Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal
8 Clement Venturini (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
]9 Marc Sarreau (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
10 Dion Smith (NZl) Mitchelton-Scott
44 James Knox (Gbr) Deceuninck-QuickStep at 14secs
51 Ian Stannard (Gbr) Team Ineos at same time
101 Tao Geoghegan Hart (Gbr) Team Ineos at 38secs
124 Owain Doull (Gbr) Team Ineos at same time