Britain’s Chris Froome billed the Vuelta a Espana as the most arduous test of his stellar career after he was officially crowned champion in Madrid on Sunday.
Froome’s success, after a trio of runner-up finishes in Spain, saw him become the first rider since 1978 to win the Vuelta and Tour de France in the same year and only the third man ever to accomplish the feat.
It took his tally of Grand Tour triumphs to five and means that he can join a select group of six riders to have won all three of cycling’s biggest events if he goes on to add the Giro d’Italia.
“I’ve been trying for years and I’ve been second three times, so to win the Vuelta now is incredible,” he said.
“I have to say it’s probably the toughest Grand Tour I’ve ridden. For me it certainly has been harder to win the Vuelta than the Tour.
“Up until now my focus has been 100 per cent on the Tour de France and trying to survive the Vuelta, whereas this year the plan was to start the season later.
“Maybe I wasn’t quite at my top, top for the Tour de France but it means I’ve been able to hold my form for longer and that has shown in this year’s Vuelta.”
Froome’s maiden Vuelta win was effectively assured once he retained the leader’s red jersey on Saturday’s stage, with racing limited on the final instalment in the Spanish capital.
The Team Sky leader also clinched the green jersey for winning the points contest, which he confirmed by finishing 11th in Madrid, and the white jersey for topping the combined classification.
The 32-year-old seized the overall lead on stage three and stayed in red for the remaining 18 stages, a commanding display that echoed his front-running fourth Tour victory in July.
Former winner Vincenzo Nibali finished second in the general classification, two minutes and 15 seconds behind Froome, with Russian Ilnur Zakarin a further 36 seconds adrift in third place.
Italian Matteo Trentin landed his fourth stage win of this year’s race while the peloton allowed home favourite Alberto Contador to ride into Madrid alone on his cycling swansong.