Adriano Malori (Movistar) won the final time trial of the 2014 Vuelta a Espana while Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) safely negotiated the slick course to secure overall victory.
Two-time Italian time trial champion Malori stopped the clocked in 11 minutes and 12 seconds on the 9.7km course to win the stage by eight seconds from Jesse Sergent (Trek Factory Racing), with Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) a further one second back in third.
Contador, meanwhile, rode conservatively on the rain-soaked course to finish 101st on the night, conceding 27 seconds to Chris Froome (Team Sky), but maintaining a one minute and ten second buffer over the Brit at the top of the general classification.
Contador’s victory seals a remarkable comeback after the 31-year-old was forced to quit the Tour de France with a fractured leg.
“It’s a dream for me to win three Vueltas,” said Contador, who previously won the race in 2008 and 2012. “I really was not expecting it. These past two months, I have had a lot of ups and downs and the support of the fans has been crucial
“I am extremely pleased and just want to thank the team as without them this win would have been impossible.”
Malori made the most of the dry early conditions to set his time and rain then made the course treacherous, with Dennis looking the most likely to go quicker than the Italian until he crashed on the run-in to the finish.
With a healthy lead at the top of the general classification, Contador visibly rode within himself and pumped his fist as he crossed the line as Vuelta a Espana champion.
Like Contador, Froome also came into the Vuelta having abandoned the Tour de France and the 29-year-old finished the race pleased with his second place overall.
“I think given how I’ve come into this race, I couldn’t be happier with this result,” said Froome, who quit the Tour on stage five with a fractured wrist and hand.
“I didn’t know if I was coming here to fight for top ten, to fight for the podium or to fight for the win, so this is really going to give me a lot of motivation going forward.
“We can take away a lot from this race.”
Vuelta a Espana 2014: stage 21 – result
1) Adriano Malori (ITA) – Movistar 11’12”
2) Jesse Sergent (NZL) – Trek Factory Racing +8″
3) Rohan Dennis (AUS) – BMC Racing +9″
4) Vasil Kiryienka (BLR) – Team Sky +17″
5) Jimmy Engoulvent (FRA) – Europcar – same time
6) Sergei Chernetski (RUS) – Katusha +18″
7) Maciej Bodnar (POL) – Cannondale – same time
8) Alexey Lutsenko (KAZ) Astana – same time
9) Jasper Stuyven (BEL) – Trek Factory Racing – same time
10) Damien Gaudin (FRA) – Ag2e La Mondiale – same time
1) Alberto Contador (SPA) – Tinkoff-Saxo – 81:25:05 hours
2) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +1’10”
3) Alejandro Valverde (SPA) – Movistar +1’50”
4) Joaquin Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha +3’25”
5) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +4’48”
6) Samuel Sanchez (SPA) – BMC Racing +9’30”
7) Daniel Martin (IRL) – Garmin-Sharp +10’38”
8) Warren Barguil (FRA) – Giant-Shimano +11’50”
9) Damiano Caruso (ITA) – Cannondale +12’50”
10) Daniel Navarro (SPA) – Cofidis +13’02”