Former ski jumper Primoz Roglic comfortably won the Spanish Vuelta for his first Grand Tour title on Sunday, finishing more than two minutes ahead of world champion Alejandro Valverde after the 21st stage.
Following custom, riders respected the leader’s lead on the last day when the race made its traditional finish in Madrid.
Roglic in his red leader’s jersey was flanked by yellow-clad Jumbo-Visma teammates as they arrived in the Spanish capital.
Fabio Jakobsen of Quick Step sprinted to win the flat 106-kilometer (65-mile) ride that started in Fuenlabrada.
Roglic has been one of cycling’s rising talents given his superb time trial performances and his ability to hang with the best climbers in the mountains.
He showed that toughness by never flagging through the climb-heavy Vuelta, even when Valverde’s Movistar and a strong Astana team led by Miguel Ángel López tested him again and again. Roglic was supported by a deep Jumbo-Visma team that included Steven Kruijswijk, Robert Gesink and Sepp Kuss, but he still had to prove he could do it alone when they were dropped by Movistar’s and Astana’s fiercest attacks in the mountains.
Roglic was considered the pre-race favorite, after other top riders such as Tour de France winners Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas and last year’s Vuelta winner Simon Yates opted not to compete in the race.
He handled that pressure and took charge of the race on Stage 10, when he dominated the individual time trial, overtaking then leader Nairo Quintana by three minutes. He established a nearly two-minute gap over Valverde that he protected with aplomb the rest of the way.
Unflappable and with an impenetrable expression, Roglic never let Valvede or López get away on their attacks, pegging his bike to their back wheels or not losing his cool and catching up when they eventually faltered.
Finally, on Sunday’s slow jaunt to Madrid he allowed himself to relax, smiling while chatting with other cyclists.
The 39-year-old Valverde, who won the Vuelta a decade ago, finished the race second.
Another Slovenian, Tadej Pogacar, completed the podium after a breakout race for the 20-year-old rider that included three stage wins.
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