Heras makes it four, Petacchi sinks five
Spain's Roberto Heras won a record fourth Vuelta title on Sunday in Madrid after safely completing the 138 kilometre final stage won by Alessandro Petacchi. The Italian powerhouse edged out rival Erik Zabel to assure his fifth stage triumph of the race an
Roberto Heras has ridden into the annals of history as the first man to win the Vuelta A Espana on four occasions after retaining his title on the 60th edition of the race.
"The Tour of Spain is the race which has given me the most, but that doesn't mean I don't want to win abroad as well," Heras told reporters.
"I can't place a particular value on this fourth overall win, I just do my work the best I can. It's up to others to say what value it has."
The 31-year-old from Bejar in the western sierras of Spain wore the leaders golden jersey for ten days in total, losing it to Rabobank's Denis Menchov after the second individual time trial but regaining the prize after an emphatic mountainous stage 15 win at Pajares.
"Pajares was the stage of my life, the best one I've ever done in any Tour of Spain," said Heras.
Having crashed badly a few days previously on the 12th stage, the Spaniard rode the remainder of the race with 15 stitches in his left knee.
Russia's Menchov - who won the prologue and the second ITT - finished the race in second position, 4'36" behind Heras, while Spain's Carlos Sastre (CSC) took third, at 4'54".
Illes Balears rider Francisco Mancebo, winner of the first Pyrenean stage in Ordino Arcalis, finished fourth at 5'58". The Spaniard therefore narrowly missed out on the podium, just as he had done in July's Tour de France.
The final stage was ridden over the forthcoming world championships route and was won by Fassa Bortolo's Alessandro Petacchi, one of the firm favourites for the rainbow jersey in next week's event.
After two 17-km laps around the centre of the capital city, Petacchi countered an attack from Liquigas' Matej Mugerli to edge out T-Mobile's Erik Zabel on the line. German sensation Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner), the youngest rider in the peloton and winner of stage 19, finished an impressive third.
Having taken all three intermediate sprints, uncontested, on the way to his fifth stage victory on this year's race, 31-year-old Petacchi levelled Heras' points tally in the points classification, and took the competition by virtue of his five stage wins.
Goldon jersey Heras won two stages over the three week race, although narrowly missed out on taking Saturday's ITT, won by Ruben Plaza. The Comunidad Valenciana rider broke the time trial speed record while pipping Heras by 0.6 of a second.
Petacchi's win will fill the Italian with confidence ahead of the September 25th world championship road-race.
Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez (Saunier-Duval) won the climbers competition while the team prize went to second-tear Spanish outfit Comunidad Valenciana, who will have done their ProTour potential no harm after a particularly strong race.