Chris Froome won La Vuelta – becoming only the third rider to win the event and the Tour de France in the same year.
Victory in Madrid yesterday enabled Froome to become the first Briton to win La Vuelta – and he toasted the achievement with a glass of cava in the saddle, handed him by a motorcycle camera crew during the 117.6km 21st and final stage.
The Team Sky rider finished two minutes and 15 seconds clear of second-placed Italian Vincenzo Nibali, with Russia’s Ilnur Zakarin third.
Nibali’s compatriot Matteo Trentin won the final stage, his fourth victory, ahead of Lorrenzo Manzin and Soren Kragh Andersen – but Froome’s 11th-placed finish denied the Italian the green jersey.
Only Jacques Anquetil in 1963 and Bernard Hinault 15 years later have matched the Briton’s achievement, although he is the first to do so since La Vuelta was moved from before the Tour to after it in 1995.
Froome’s winning time was 82 hours, 30 minutes and two seconds and within minutes of the finish the delighted 32-year-old was quick to tweet a photograph of himself eating pizza with the caption, “Job done!”.
He summed up his emotions in a message posted by Team Sky on their Twitter feed.
Froome, who had three times finished second in La Vuelta, said: “I’ve been fighting for this victory for six years.
“It’s amazing to stand on the top step this time.”
He was congratulated on his achievement by Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, who said: “Congratulations to Chris Froome, and all at Team Sky, for his historic victories in the Vuelta a Espana and Tour de France this year.
“It is an incredible achievement and further cements Froome’s position as one of the all-time cycling greats.”
Froome had all but wrapped up his victory the day before, hailing it his “greatest achievement”.
Heading into Saturday’s stage 20 with an advantage of one minute and 37 seconds over Bahrain-Merida’s Vincenzo Nibali, Froome extended his lead by finishing second on the brutal Alto de l’Angliru.
Trek-Segafredo’s Alberto Contador took a sensational and emotional solo victory in his final grand tour before retirement but came 20 seconds short of a place on the podium.
Behind him, Froome and Team Sky lieutenant Wout Poels crossed the line 17 seconds later, extending the Briton’s lead to two minutes 15 seconds in the general classification after Nibali struggled on the final climb following an earlier crash.
“I think it probably is my greatest achievement, being the first person to win the Tour de France and then go on to win the Vuelta,” said Froome.
“It’s an amazing feeling. The team has just been incredible over the last few months. It’s meant so much to me, the way they have supported us. I owe a massive thank you to all my team-mates.”
Froome’s three weeks in Spain have not been plain sailing, despite him holding the leader’s red jersey since stage three.
Stage 16 saw the 32-year-old hit the deck twice on a descent while he saw his lead slashed on stage 17 after being dropped by his rivals.
But he made no mistake in the 117.5-kilometre penultimate stage from Corvero de Asturias to Alto de l’Angliru, a climb that saw Bradley Wiggins lose the red jersey in 2011, the same year Froome had the first of his three second-place finishes at the event.
Froome said: “I have to say that is probably the toughest grand tour I’ve ever ridden.
“There was something different happening every day. I’ve had good days and then I’ve been lying on the ground, bleeding, thinking my race might be over.
“It’s been a roller coaster – absolutely relentless. It’s a relief now to finish and to be getting to Madrid.
“L’Angliru is such a brutal climb, so congratulations to Alberto (Contador) for finishing off the way he did. That was an amazing way to end a career. He was just too strong for us today.”
Contador, a three-time Vuelta winner, had attacked on the early slopes of the final climb to the delight of the locals.
The 34-year-old collided with a fan with 6km left but remained upright before riding on to victory.
Contador said: “There couldn’t be a better finish, winning on the Angliru. No way for a better end.”
He was over three minutes adrift of Froome in the GC standings, so the Briton’s focus was firmly on Nibali.
The Italian was one of a number of riders to crash on the slippy descent of Alto de la Cordal and while he caught back up with Froome’s group before the Angliru, he cracked in the closing stages.
Nibali remained in second overall, 36 seconds clear of Team Katusha Alpecin’s Ilnur Zakarin, who went on to take his first grand tour podium.