It is late afternoon in Madrid on the final day of La Vuelta a España and the streets around the Plaza de la Lealtad are already full of fans anxiously awaiting the arrival of the cyclists! It will still be another four hours until the cyclists begin to arrive, but the anticipation and excitement of the fans is alive in the air. Although it will be a few hours before the male cyclists arrive to the finish line of La Vuelta, the female cyclists of the Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta speed down Gran Vía past a sea of cheering fans! This is the first year of the Madrid Challenge, in celebration of the 70th anniversary of La Vuelta they decided to add a female race similar to La Course by Le Tour de France. The winner of the first ever Challenge Madrid was American cyclist, Shelley Olds.
As it gets closer to the arrival of the cyclists, more and more people fill the streets and the Pro Team buses and cars begin to fill La Calle de Alcalá. The environment is very relaxed and excited as fans walk from bus to bus hoping to meet some of the members of their favorite Pro Teams. Among the Pro Tour team members is Paolo Tiralongo who suffered a brutal crash in stage two of La Vuelta and abandoned the race after stage three due to his injuries. Tiralongo is happy after having a few weeks of rest and recovery and is of course enthused for the Astana team win!
The wind begins to pick up and the sky gets darker, but despite the gloomy weather the fans eagerly swarm around the street barricades trying to get a spot where they might catch a glimpse of the cyclists. The helicopter filming the race comes into sight and everyone knows that the moment they have been waiting for all afternoon is finally here! There are several large TVs broadcasting the race as police cars and the team cars carrying bikes drive past. There are children on their parent´s shoulders and people standing up on anything that will hold them, so they can see the racers speed by.As the racers go speeding down Gran Vía the fans go wild! Everyone is cheering loudly as the cyclists pass them, but only for an instant, if you blink you might miss them. They are a heard of lightning fast, colored jerseys, and it is a truly remarkable sight!
Fabio Aru from team Astana and first time winner of La Vuelta wears the coveted red jersey as he rides into Madrid to claim his first Grand Tour title. The stage winner of the day is John Degenkolb from Team Giant-Alpecin. As Aru and Degenkolb take the stage to celebrate their emotional victories, some of the other teams head back to their buses where they are greeted by fans waiting to take pictures, get autographs, and congratulate them on finishing La Vuelta! An exciting day in Madrid has come to an end, but the 2015 La Vuelta a España is not soon to be forgotten!