The Vuelta a Espana rolled into Madrid on Sunday after 21 days of racing during which Spaniards snapped a winless streak, Covid wrought havoc and Ineos Grenadiers suffered a rare Grand Tour flop.
Here, AFP Sport takes a look at three talking points from the 77th edition of the race:
SPANIARDS POWER BACK
No Spanish rider had won a Grand Tour stage since Ion Izagirre took the sixth stage of the 2020 Vuelta until Marc Soler won stage five of this year's race in Bilbao. That was a gap of 122 Grand Tour stages without a Spanish win.
There have been promising signs for Spanish fans that a similar drought will not happen again in the coming years. Juan Ayuso finished third at just 19 years old and, given his progress so far, he could be aiding UAE Team Emirates leader Tadej Pogacar in his bid to regain the Tour de France crown next season. Ineos Grenadiers also have a talented Spanish youngster in Carlos Rodriguez, who finished seventh overall in the Vuelta.
INEOS' GRAND TOUR FLOP
Richard Carapaz had one bad day in the mountains on the Giro and ended up coming second to Australian Jai Hindley.
Geraint Thomas rode under the radar at the Tour de France and managed a commendable third place, but no Ineos rider threatened the podium at the Vuelta. Only once in the past 12 years has Ineos failed to win a Grand Tour.
The chief reason for their difficulties this year was arguably Egan Bernal's absence. He suffered multiple injuries in a high-speed collision with a bus while training in January. The Colombian struggled when he returned to competitive cycling at the Tour of Denmark last month.
With Evenepoel, Pogacar and Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard of Jumbo-Visma now all on the scene, Ineos will be desperate to show their dominant era has not come to an end next year.
COVID HITS HARD
Cycling's biggest races have struggled to prevent outbreaks of Covid this year, with 17 riders pulling out of the Tour de France after positive tests.
Of 184 riders on the start list for the Vuelta, only 134 finished the race. Of the 50 riders who failed to make it to the finish line in Madrid, around half had Covid. Ayuso also tested positive, but was allowed to ride on regardless due to a low viral charge.