The Spaniard Roberto Heras won the Tour of Spain for the second time in his career yesterday when he retained his 28-second lead in the race after finishing safely among the main pack in the final stage in Madrid.
Isidro Nozal of the ONCE-Eroski team finished second overall and Kelme rider Alejandro Valverde completed the all-Spanish podium. Alessandro Petacchi from the Fassa Bortolo team won the 21st stage, a 145.8-km run around Madrid, after breaking clear of the pack in the final sprint for the line.
It was the Italian's fifth stage victory of the race to add to the four he won this year in the Tour de France and his six victories in the Giro d'Italia. Heras's triumph in the Vuelta means that his US Postal team have won two of the three major tours on this year's racing calendar. The American-based outfit did not compete in the Giro d'Italia, but team leader Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France for the fifth year in succession in July.
It is the first time that a team have won two major tours since 1993 when Miguel Indurain won for Banesto in both the Giro and the Tour de France.
Heras, who was over five minutes down on the race leader Isidro Nozal following last Saturday's stage to Valdepenas, produced a succession of brilliant performances in the mountains in the final week to overhaul his rival. He pulled back 73 seconds in last Sunday's ascent of the Sierra de la Pandera, made up further time in the Sierra Nevada and in the mountains north of Madrid during the week, but still went into Saturday's penultimate stage 1min 55sec behind Nozal.
The 29-year-old produced a superlative exhibition of explosive climbing to eat into Nozal's lead on the tough lower slopes of the 11.2-km mountain time trial to Alto de Abantos and then gradually upped the pace as his rival started to stall.Reuse content