It’s about results, of course it is. Winner Primoz Roglic, countryman Pogacar and ageing Spaniard Valverde rounding out the podium. Bouchard, Grand Tour debutant, in polka dots.
But the conclusion of a Grand Tour is about so much more. Three weeks and twenty-one stages generate stories. Memorable moments, epic weather, poignancy and emotion.
It’s the reason, perhaps, why the ‘cycling’ section of your local bookshop groans with titles. In three weeks there’s a lot say and plenty of time to say it.
We had a leaky garden hose on Stage 1, liberally watering the road surface and sending Team Jumbo Visma careering into the barriers in the team time trial.
The Vuelta, eh? we mused, classic!
There was Stage 9, in Andorra, with hailstones the size of golf balls, riders seeking shelter and umbrellas, and Tadej Pogacar announcing himself as a tough-guy (and maiden Grand Tour stage winning) cyclist.
Mikel Iturria, on Stage 11, went full local hero; as a Basque, on Basque roads, he took a glorious breakaway win that had roadside fans, hearts beating proud in their chests, howling their delight.
And what about Sepp Kuss delivering joyful high fives in winning Stage 15? The crosswinds of Stage 17? The Movistar induced diplomatic incident of Stage 19? Philippe Gilbert winning twice? James Knox flying the flag for Cumbria?
Yes, it’s been apparent for some time that Primoz Roglic would likely win this race. It’s been a classic of the win-the-time-trial-give-nothing-away-in-the-mountains genre. The red jersey has not delivered drama.
But the rest of the race, pretty much every day, has.Embed from Getty Images
And today, of course, we capped it all off with our ceremonial trundle into Madrid. Beers were clinked, risky non-handed team photos were snapped, and laps around the country’s capital set up our sprint finish.
Once in the city the peloton were dragged by Tim Declercq, Deceuninck’s wide shouldered diesel engine, lap by lap. Into the final K’s the Belgian super-team lined up their lead-out like a late-noughties HTC Colombia.
Stybar, passed on to Cavagna, who handed over to Richeze, to deliver Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen for a head to head with a late-surging Sam Bennett. The Irishman, widely seen as the top sprinter in this race, pipped by the width of a wedge of Gouda.
Making it two stages for Jakobsen (against two for Bennett) and a total of five for Deceuninck Quick Step.Embed from Getty Images
And Roglic, grinning from ear to Slovenian ear, rolled across the line to become the first Grand Tour winner from a country which appeared on our maps less than thirty years ago.