Cycling: Golden hue to Ullrich victory in the Vuelta

JAN ULLRICH secured victory in the Tour of Spain yesterday after the 21st and final 163-kilometre stage around Madrid, won by Dutch TVM rider Jeroen Blijlevens in a sprint finish.

The 25-year-old Ullrich, a Tour de France winner in 1997, added the Vuelta to his honours list for the Telekom team after finishing 4min 15sec ahead of his nearest rival, the Spaniard Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, and 5min 57sec in front of another local favourite, Roberto Heras. "I think the podium was fair. Ullrich was the strongest," Heras said.

Russia's Pavel Tonkov was fourth in the overall standings, 7min 53sec off the pace following a gruelling race of 3,500km lasting three weeks.

Ullrich, who missed this year's Tour de France, said: "I do not know if I am at my top level. The Vuelta mountain stages and the time trials have been very difficult. There was lots of wind."

Ullrich claimed the leader's golden jersey after the 12th stage and never relinquished his grip on the event. Appropriately, the German rider took the lead at Ordino-Arcalis in Andorra, where he had first taken the yellow jersey in his successful Tour de France campaign two years ago.