Chris Froome has won his fifth grand tour, and his first Vuelta a Espana. The Brit took the win ahead of Vincenzo Nibali and Ilnur Zakarin. The final stage saw Matteo Trentin blitz the field in the bunch sprint to win the final stage ahead of Lorenzo Manzin and Søren Kragh Andersen.
Arroyomolinos to Madrid was the final stage of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana, with the flat run in to the finish still presenting one battle besides that for stage honours. The question was now who would win the points classification. Chris Froome began the stage with the lead, but there were enough points on offer for Matteo Trentin to win the classification. In order to do that Froome would have to fail to score points at either the intermediate sprint or finish line; while Trentin would need points at both.
The stage began calmly, with the field very relaxed and leisurely for the opening kilometres as Team Sky led the way towards the finishing circuit in Madrid. In a nice gesture Alberto Contador was allowed the privilege of ‘attacking’ to lead the race on to the finishing circuit for his final day of racing as a professional cyclist. Contador enjoyed the moment, clad in the white combination classification jersey on loan from Chris Froome. He basked in the adulation of the fans who were a wall of noise around him; watching their man for the last time.
Eventually though the racing began and just in time for the first intermediate sprint which came with 33km left to race. Quick-Step Floors and Team Sky exchanged control of the peloton, showing very clearly that Froome was in the mood to contest for points. Trentin was in control though and he took maximum points, meaning that the battle for the green jersey would come down to the final sprint.
An attack did go clear featuring Alessandro De Marchi of BMC Racing, Rui Costa of UAE Team Emirates and Nick Schultz of Caja Rural-Seguros RGA. The trio built a slight lead, and it would only be permitted to be slight, with the Quick-Step Floors team determined that the stage should end in a bunch sprint finish and a win for Trentin.
De Marchi, Schultz and Costa did well though to hang on until the final lap of racing, despite the peloton having the trio in their sights the entire time. Schultz was the first to drop off the pace, leaving De Marchi and Costa up ahead. Costa looked the stronger of the two, but De Marchi was able to keep pace until finally they too were swept up by the peloton.
With 5km left to race Bora-Hansgrohe had control of the peloton, but that soon changed as Bahrain-Merida and the ever present Quick-Step Floors bore down on the front end of the pack. The race was speeding along at approaching 60kph in places as the road was gobbled up and Cannondale-Drapac hit the front. Tom Scully was visible just behind two riders from Trek-Segafredo. Scully looked to be trying to position his teammate for the sprint, but with the manic finish it was proving easier said than done.
Matteo Trentin was perfectly positioned though to take the final sprint with a solid lead out train ahead. With 3km to go the blue train hit the front of the race, while Chris Froome of Team Sky was also putting himself in a good position to produce a strong finish. But the speed from Quick-Step Floors was incredible as the peloton passed through 2km to go. Tom Scully had sat up with his job done for the day. But it would be Quick-Step Floors and Cofidis taking charge of the sprint.
Julian Alaphilippe led out the sprint for Matteo Trentin and from there the Quick-Step Floors rider made it look easy as he took yet another stage win. But where had Chris Froome finished? The Brit had made it clear that he was going to battle for the points classification as well as the overall lead, but he needed to finish inside the top 15 to make that happen. Finally it was confirmed that Froome had finished 11th on the stage and had done enough to take the points classification.
You could put an argument forward that of all of Chris Froome’s grand tour wins this could be his most impressive as he walks away from the Vuelta with the red jersey for race winner, the green jersey for points winner and the white jersey for combination winner.
Aaron Gate of Aqua Blue Sport was the fastest of the Kiwis, crossing the line 23rd on the stage, while both Sam Bewley of Orica-SCOTT and Tom Scully of Cannondale-Drapac crossed the line safely to bring the curtain down on the 2017 Vuelta a Espana.