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Many reasons for Madrid celebrations
Sep 12th, 11. The 2011 Vuelta Espana finished in Madrid today where all four riders at the top of the General Classification had something big to celebrate.
1st - Juan Jose Cobo
Juan Jose Cobo started this grand tour as a support rider for Team Geox, he ended as the overall victor.
"I'm thrilled, this is the greatest day in my career. It's a dream come true. I still can't believe this victory and the fantastic feat that me and my team managed to accomplish," he said on his team website.
Cobo climbed himself into the GC lead on Stage 15's mountain finish atop Angliru.
After his teammates set a great pace, the Spaniard took off with 7km left to ride - and his rivals had no response.
The time gap and the 20sec bonus for stage victory gave him a lead which he successfully defended for the final week of racing.
"I came to the Vuelta knowing that I was in good shape and that I could ride a good race, with the desire to help my team, but I never thought that I would end up here in Madrid in the red jersey on the highest step on the podium.
"I came to this race without the pressures of being the leader and this helped me to work with peace of mind and build this victory day by day."
It is a remarkable result from a rider who considered retiring from cycling just three months ago.
Cobo also won the white jersey of the Combined Classification, and Geox took the prize for the Team's Classication.
2nd and 3rd - Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins
Team Sky entered the Vuelta with the aim of claiming victory with Bradley Wiggins.
In the end they finished 2nd and 3rd, with Chris Froome taking the higher placing just 13sec behind Cobo.
The results were Sky's best ever results in a Grand Tour, and the pair are the first Britons to make a Grand Tour podium in over 20 years.
They wore the red jersey for five stages between them, and Froome took stage victory after a great man on man battle with Cobo on Stage 17.
The Kenyan-born Brit did everything he could to overhaul Cobo's 13sec advantage but ran out of opportunities.
"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," said Froome.
"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."
Considering he broke his collarbone just eight weeks ago, Wiggins was happy to be on final podium, a result which gives him confidence for the coming seasons.
"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."
4th - Bauke Mollema
Finishing 4th in any event is one of the hardest positions to be in, but for Rabobank's Bauke Mollema the final day provided a nice surprise.
His sprint finish earned him enough points to take the win in the Points Classification ahead of Roaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).
While he would rather have won the red leader's jersey, Mollema was thrilled to have the green jersey - even though it was never a focus for him.
"It's a beautiful and unexpected reward," he said.
Rodriguez, who also began the tour with overall ambitions, was leading the Points Classification until he crashed heaviliy 15km before the finish on Stage 16.
He kept the jersey that day, lost it the next but was glad just to be able to continue. He took the jersey back the following day and started today's final stage on the same points as Mollema.
Mollema finished the stage in 11th place, earned 5 points and took the overall Points Classification win.
"I tried to do my best but unfortunately Mollema, in the last straight, was faster than me" said Rodriguez.
"I know I didn't lose this green jersey today, but for me it's very disappointing to lose it during the last stage: not just for me, but for the whole team which, after the incredible work it did during this race, deserved a concrete result."
Liquigas' Peter Sagan finished his first Grand Tour with his 3rd stage win, while David Moncoutie (Cofidis) secured his fourth Vuelta King of the Mountain title.
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