Chris Froome made it safely to the end of the Vuelta a Espana to secure fourth place overall.
The British rider came into the race on the back of a second-place finish at the Tour de France and put in a strong showing to secure top-five finishes in back-to-back Grand Tours, a rare achievement in modern cycling.
Froome was in contention for overall victory early on but slipped back as the race wore on, eventually finishing behind an all-Spanish podium of Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).
He was ably supported throughout the three weeks by a strong Team Sky line-up, with every rider making it to the finish bar the unfortunate Xavier Zandio, who crashed out on stage 12.
Sergio Henao again proved his Grand Tour potential with a 14th-place finish, while Ben Swift and Richie Porte both came agonisingly close to stage victories.
On the last day of action into Madrid, Swift came home in 19th position while John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) won his fifth stage of the race.
Season to remember
After the stage we caught up with Froome, who gave us his thoughts on the race and what comes next after an amazing summer of racing.
He said: “It’s slightly disappointing not to come away with more – obviously we had high ambitions coming here. But having said that, I’m not disappointed with how we rode, and how I rode. I know I gave it everything and I know the team did a fantastic job to look after me and support me. In that sense there’s no disappointment at all.
“It’s been a huge learning process. I think there’s so much we can take away from this race. Personally, I now know where my limits are in terms of doing two Grand Tours back to back. I know a lot more about the competition that wasn’t at the Tour de France this year and will be at future editions and races next year. For me it’s been the first time leading the team and being in a position where I need to tell the guys around me what I need to get me though the race as best as possible.
“I’m in long need of a rest now! I’ll definitely put the feet up for a few days, and if I can come around in time, go to the World Championships road race. The main emphasis for the next few days though will just be switching off and relaxing.”
The riders set out at a leisurely pace as Contador had time to savour his imminent victory.
As the riders approached Madrid for the finishing circuit, six riders chipped off the front in a bid to upset the sprinters.
Kevin Seeldraeyers (Astana), Sergey Lagutin (Vacansoleil-DCM), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Sergio Carrasco and Javier Chacon (Andalucia) and Javier Aramenida (Caja Rural) were the riders who went up the road but the peloton kept them on a tight leash and it was the fast men who came to the fore on the run to the finish line.
Degenkolb was given a perfect lead out by his team-mates and finished off the job in his trademark powerful style, with Viviani edged into second and Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan) completing the top three.
Valverde showed his all-round abilities by sprinting to sixth place, meaning he overtook Rodriguez to claim victory in both the points and combination classifications at the last possible opportunity.
Rodriguez, who had been set for overall victory until a daring move from Contador on stage 17, ultimately finished the race empty-handed.