Cavendish found some sparkling form in Spain
Mark Cavendish won the points jersey at the Tour of Spain to become the first Briton in 21 years to earn the sprinters' title at a Grand Tour.
The Manxman, 25, held on to the green jersey despite American rival Tyler Farrar winning the final stage.
Cavendish is only the second Briton to secure a sprint title in one of the top three stage races following Malcolm Elliott's 1989 triumph in Spain.
Vincenzo Nibali was the first Italian in 20 years to win the overall title.
He finished in the peloton on Sunday to win by 43 seconds from Ezequiel Mosquera Miguez of Spain, with Slovakia's Peter Velits third.
Cavendish, who won three stages in Spain to add to the five he claimed at this year's Tour de France, finished on 156 points, seven clear of Farrar.
The American crossed the line in a little over two hours and two minutes after an 85km ride from San Sebastian de los Reyes to Madrid.
HTC-Columbia rider Cavendish had looked well placed to seal his title with another stage victory but gave himself too much ground to make up as Farrar burst through in the final 500m.
Second was more than good enough, however. Farrar needed Cavendish to finish no higher than fifth as well as win himself to deny the Isle of Man rider the green jersey.
Cavendish said: "I didn't expect it when I came here, but I really am pleased that I managed to achieve my first green jersey in a major tour. It's something very special.
"The Vuelta is different from other races because there are equal points on offer in the mountains and in the flats, but at the end of the day it's all about being consistent.
"I'm very happy for HTC-Columbia all round. We took five stages, led overall, and we got on the podium as well as the points. It has gone perfectly."
Cavendish will now head to Australia, hoping to become the first Briton since Tom Simpson in 1965 to win the World Championships.
The Grand Tours are cycling's three major stage races, featuring the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia and the Tour of Spain, also known as the Vuelta.