Vincenzo Nibali became the first Italian to win the Vuelta a Espana in two decades on Sunday with his first victory in a Grand Tour.
The 25-year-old Nibali maintained his 41-second lead over his closest rival, Ezequiel Mosquera of Spain, on a trouble-free day, finishing the largely ceremonial, 85km final stage in the leading group.
Nibali was 21st, on the same time as stage winner Tyler Farrar of the US who was first across the line in a bunch sprint. Nibali, who rides for the Liquigas-Doimo team, became the first Italian to win the race since Marco Giovannetti in 1990.
Mosquera was second overall and Slovakian Peter Velits took third place, three minutes two seconds behind Nibali.
“Ever since the race began I always said that I was here to win and that’s what I did,” Nibali told reporters. “I’ve had a great race and with the help of all the team I’ve succeeded, but it wasn’t at all easy. Everybody said I was the biggest threat of all the foreign riders, but that hasn’t been extra pressure. I’ve had great form and that was really all that mattered.”
Nibali, who was the leader for two days after Spain’s Igor Anton crashed and abandoned, was ousted from the top spot by Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez after the Italian suffered badly on the summit finish of Cotobello.
However, Nibali then took a firm grip on the overall classification on stage 17’s time trial through the vineyards of Penafiel, where Mosquera replaced Rodriguez as his main challenger.
Mosquera attacked on Saturday’s final climb to Bola del Mundo, but Nibali was able to claw his way back into contention by the finish and keep the overall lead.
“I had to settle for second, but I’ve never been on the podium of a major Tour before so that’s a pretty big achievement in itself,” Mosquera told reporters.
After Nibali’s compatriot Ivan Basso won the Giro d’Italia in May, the Vuelta is Liquigas-Doimo’s second major stage race victory of the year.
Farrar, who won the final sprint ahead of Briton Mark Cavendish and Australia’s Allan Davis, said: “Winning on the last day of a Grand Tour is always a special feeling and it confirms I’m well on track for the world championships in Australia too.”
The King of the Mountains title was taken for a third consecutive year by David Moncoutie of France. Cavendish took the points jersey whilst Russian team Katusha won the team prize.