A good Vuelta for Froome’s reputation but a better one for Quintana’s

vuelta-2016-stage-21For a race so profoundly sprint-unfriendly, the final stage seems bizarre – almost irrelevant. Supposedly a reward for sprinters who’ve lasted the course, the truth is that few turned up in the first place, so this just seems a weird, out-of-character, tacked on extra.

Best of the dregs was Magnus Cort Nielsen, who also won stage 18.

The top two overall

Not the most popular of riders, I think Froome has come out of this Vuelta well in public relations terms.

From applauding Nairo Quintana’s win to determination when things weren’t going his way, he has attracted a degree of admiration. His willingness to let rivals go ahead early on climbs is brave and his forlorn riding on stage 15 earned respect. Without team-mates, he fought until he was utterly spent that day and he was also dignified afterwards, crediting Alberto Contador and Quintana for the move, rather than moaning about how things had panned out for him.

He even managed a joke at one point. When told that Quintana had suggested a ban on power meters, he said with a smile: “Why not? We could go back to single-speed bikes too.”

But Quintana is the winner by 1m23s. At the Tour de France, his blank face spoke volumes of his inferiority and helplessness. Here at the Vuelta, his blank face spoke volumes of his supremacy and ability to counter everything thrown at him. Only in the time trial did he cede significant time to Froome, but through his climbing and attentiveness, he had a big enough buffer that it didn’t really matter.

P.S.

Adam Hansen finished the race, so that’s 16 Grand Tours on the bounce now.

What’s next?

Ordinarily, we’d have just two major appointments remaining – the Tour of Lombardy on October 1 and the World Championships a week later. This year, however, there is also the Eneco Tour from this time next week.

Essentially the Tour de Benelux, the Eneco Tour is a great slab of spring classics style racing which has for some reason been plonked right in the middle of summer before now. It seems to make more sense in autumn, bookending the season with wind, rain and hard men doing hard racing.