The SaxoBank-Tinkoff rider (inset) was just over seven minutes off the time of winner Chris Horner, and can take enormous confidence going forward, having battled gamely throughout the three-week Tour while also taking a stage win — his first ever in a Grand Tour.
American Horner became the oldest ever winner of the Vuelta yesterday when he clinched victory at the age of 41. Horner is eight years older than 1994 champion Tony Rominger and five years older than Firmin Lambot, who won the Tour de France in 1922, aged 36. The RadioShack rider maintained his 37-second lead over Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali on a final stage won by Australian Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEdge) in a bunch sprint.
Horner was only three seconds ahead of Nibali going into Saturday’s penultimate stage but extended his advantage by finishing second behind France’s Kenny Elissonde on the brutal climb of Alto de L’Angliru.
Horner stretched his lead to 37 seconds going into yesterday’s largely ceremonial 109.6km final stage. Spain’s Alejandro Valverde finished third overall.
Meanwhile, Peter Hawkins was best of the strong Irish contingent on the opening stage of the Tour of Britain, the IG Sigma Sport rider finishing eighth after a bunch sprint into the Scottish town of Peebles.
Elsewhere, Olivia Dillon wrapped up her third win at Rás na mBan yesterday, the Irish national team rider finishing the five-day stage race in the same time as teammate Mel Spath but winning on countback via her higher stage placings.
Cork woman Fiona Meade (Team Munster) took the county rider classification after a gritty 19th place finish yesterday. Britain’s Hannah Barnes was Queen of the Mountains. First veteran was Monica Marconi of Orwell Wheelers. The junior prize went to Danish rider Elinor Huusko of Team Rytger.