Vuelta champion Roglic makes cycling history for Slovenia

Team Jumbo rider Slovenia's Primoz Roglic (C) celebrates with his teammates after winning the 21st and last stage of the 2019 La Vuelta cycling Tour of Spain, a 106,6 km race from Fuenlabrada to Madrid, on Sunday. — AFP

MADRID — Primoz Roglic avoided any final day mishap on the Vuelta a Espana's ceremonial ride into Madrid on Sunday to become the first Slovenian to win one of cycling's three Grand Tours.

The former ski jump champion had assured victory on Saturday, only having to complete the 21st stage for the biggest success of his career.

Veteran Spaniard Alejandro Valverde was second overall with Roglic's compatriot Tadej Pogacar in third.

The three-week race concluded in a sprint on the streets of the Spanish capital won by Fabio Jakobsen.

Roglic had lined up as one of the favorites to succeed absent defending champion Simon Yates and he did not disappoint.

A member of Slovenia's 2007 junior world ski jump champion team had seized control of the overall standings by pulverizing his rivals on the individual time-trial in stage 10.

Surrounded by a powerful Jumbo team, Roglic then systematically demoralized pretenders on the mountains, proving unshakeable in the climbing stages.

Few victories come without a major scare and Roglic received one when arch rival Nairo Quintana escaped in a crosswind last Tuesday and came close to grabbing the lead.

But he survived and lined up for the traditional last day victory parade with a lead of over two and a half minutes from Valverde.

Jumbo-Visma provided Roglic with a solid platform from which to take his victory, surrounding their leader with a strong team after he failed to close out the Giro d'Italia in May.

The victory emulates the performance of Yates in 2018, who had looked set to win the Giro before wilting, and then redeeming his reputation by winning the Vuelta.

While Roglic was the overall winner, his 20-year-old compatriot Pogacar not only climbed the podium but also secured the white jersey as best under-25's rider.

The UAE Emirates Team rider was the breakout star of this year's Vuelta, and deprived Colombia's Miguel Angel Lopez, one of the great animators of this tour, of the white jersey. — AFP