Italian Vincenzo Nibali, of Liquigas, claimed overall victory in the Tour of Spain Sunday after a 21st and final stage won by American sprinter Tyler Farrar.
Nibali, a 25-year-old all-rounder from Sicily, becomes the first Italian since Marco Giovannetti in 1990 to win the three-week race. He succeeds Spaniard Alejandro Valverde as race champion.
The Italian finished with a 41-sec lead on Ezequiel Mosquera after managing to counter a series of attacks by the Spaniard, notably on the mountainous penultimate stage.
Mosquera took that stage victory on Saturday and eventually finished in second place overall, with Slovakian Peter Velits finishing third having hoisted himself up the standings with victory in the final time trial.
Having placed a solid seventh overall in last year’s Tour de France, Nibali’s status as a potential winner of the Grand Tours was polished with a third place finish in the 2010 Giro d’Italia, won by teammate Ivan Basso.
A number of top stars were missing from the race — three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador opted not to compete and Valverde is currently serving a ban.
And arguably Nibali was given a helping hand when he took over the race lead on stage 14 after Euskaltel’s Igor Anton was forced out due to a crash.
Nibali, however, showed class and composure for the final week that was made even more difficult by the offensive tactics of Mosquera and Spanish climbing specialist Joaquin Rodriguez.
Rodriguez then took an option on overall victory after taking possession of the leader’s red jersey after stage 16, after which Nibali dropped to second overall at 33sec.
However the diminutive Katusha rider paid the price for his lack of time trialling prowess. The next day Nibali produced a solid time trial performance over 46km on stage 17 to take command of the race.
With Rodriguez almost four minutes adrift, it became a duel with Mosquera with the final round taking place on Saturday’s 20th stage to the summit of the Bola del Mundo.
Mosquera had promised to give it his all, and the Spanish rider kept to his word. Nibali was equal to the challenge, however, finishing spent but happy in the Spaniard’s wake to vitrually secure his first three-week race win.
In the final stage Garmin-Transitions sprinter Farrar finally got the better of triple stage winner Mark Cavendish, the American leaving the Isle of Man ace in second with Allan Davis of Australia in third.
France’s David Moncoutie, of Cofidis, won the polka dot jersey for the race’s best climber for the third time.
As well as three stage wins Cavendish, who has 15 stage wins from the Tour de France in three years, also secured the race’s points jersey.