Vuelta a España: Meersman takes 3rd in Madrid
David De La Cruz concluded the race in 7th, for Etixx – Quick-Step's third top 10 overall this season in Grand Tours.
Stage 21 (Las Rozas – Madrid, 104.8 kilometers) of the Vuelta a España was a promenade until the last 40 kilometers, when the peloton hit the streets of the Spanish capital and riders began jumping from the bunch in an attempt to book a place in the race's final breakaway. Four men went clear, but couldn't take more than 50 seconds on a pack that looked at all times in control, as there wasn't any reason for them to panic on a course perfectly suited to the fast sprint teams which eventually clawed back the escapees before the 10km-to-go mark.
The bunch gallop was a highly contested one, and Gianni Meersman – a double stage winner at this edition – got involved in the fight for victory after being handily placed in the upper part of the peloton by his Etixx – Quick-Step teammates. The Belgian sprinted to third, behind Magnus Cort (Orica-BikeExchange) and Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff), ending the team's Vuelta a España campaign on a high note. As expected, the general classification didn't suffer any changes, and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) crowned himself winner of the race, ahead of Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange).
Former red jersey David De La Cruz enjoyed a calm day in the peloton, after three intense weeks, and finished his home tour in seventh place, his best result to date in a major race. The 27-year-old, Spain's sole stage winner at this edition, is the third Etixx – Quick-Step rider to place in the top 10 of a Grand Tour in 2016, after Bob Jungels at the Giro d'Italia and Dan Martin at the Tour de France.
On top of that, Etixx – Quick-Step – who concluded the Vuelta a España with all nine riders – is also the most successful team of the season in terms of Grand Tour victories, with no less than nine stages in the bag, scored by Marcel Kittel (3), Gianluca Brambilla (2), Gianni Meersman (2), David De La Cruz and Matteo Trentin.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele