Vuelta Stage Report: Barring a bizarre accident or a last minute covid positive, Remco Evenepoel has won his first grand Tour. On the last mountain stage before the sprint into Madrid on Sunday, KOM Richard Carapaz won the stage on the Puerto de Cotos and Remco Evenepoel finished in the chase group to protect his overall lead.
*** The full ‘PEZ Stage Report’ very soon. ***
The final kilometre of stage 20
Richard Carapaz won the twentieth stage of la Vuelta’22. On top of the Puerto de Cotos, the Ecuadorian distanced himself from escape companion Sergio Higuita and held his ground on the flat final kilometres. GC leader Remco Evenepoel was barely attacked and will (probably) win the Vuelta a España tomorrow.
Trek-Segafredo are happy with the green jersey and three stage wins thanks to Mads Pedersen
Race director, Fernando Escartín: “Many may recall the stage where Fabio Aru was declared the winner of La Vuelta 15. This one is very similar. A classic route along the Guadarrama Mountain Range, with climbs up the Morcuera and Canencia mountain passes and two laps of Navacerrada. The teams can prepare their battle strategies from the beginning and make this stage a decisive one for the general classification.”
Stage 20 profile
There was a lot of tension at the stage start in Moralzarzal on Saturday, especially among the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl riders. They certainly wouldn’t have the easiest day to control in a 181 kilometre stage with five difficult climbs. But their goal was clear: to make Remco Evenepoel the first Belgian Grand Tour winner since 1978.
Alejandro Valverde getting his bike right before the start, would he make a move today?
Enric Mas and his Movistar squad should try to dislodge Evenepoel, but could they? In the early part of the stage, Robert Stannard was especially busy with some attacks. Earlier this week, the Australian saw his teammate Jay Vine drop out and loose his almost certain KOM jersey. If Stannard was able to make up 30 points today on Richard Carapaz, Alpecin-Deceuninck could still win the climbers classification.
The leader’s jerseys at the start
Stannard went on the attack with teammate Xandro Meurisse, with Clément Champoussin (AG2R Citroën), Rubén Fernández (Cofidis), Daniel Navarro (Burgos-BH), Juan Bou (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Simon Guglielmi (Arkea-Samsic). On the first climb of the day, the Puerto de Navacerrada, there were a lot of changes at the front. Bou and Champoussin were dropped, while Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) joined them. Stannard took the mountain points.
Joan Bou in the early break again
The first climb also inspired a counter-attack: Rohan Dennis and Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma), David de la Cruz and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan), Gino Mäder (Bahrain Victorious), Sergio Higuita (BORA-hansgrohe), Jesús Herrada (Cofidis), Hugh Carthy (EF Education- EasyPost), Thibaut Pinot and Sébastien Reichenbach (Groupama-FDJ), Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers), Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Alejandro Valverde and Gregor Mühlberger (Movistar), Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates), Urko Berrade and Pau Miquel (Equipo Kern Pharma) and Mikel Bizkarra (Euskaltel-Euskadi).
There was a big battle to get in the break of the day
However, that group couldn’t cross to the front. Stannard accelerated again at the front and had Soler with him. They kept the chasers at 2 minutes for a while and Stannard also took the mountain points on the Puerto de Navafría. In the valley, under the impulse of Richard Carapaz and Thibaut Pinot, the chase group caught the front riders, 50 kilometres from the finish. This gave Carapaz the chance to take mountain points on the third climb of the day and secure his mountain jersey.
Quick-Step would have to be in control
Pinot wanted to do something today and Carapaz was looking after his KOM jersey
On the fourth climb, the Puerto de la Morcuera, Evenepoel predicted in advance that the race would really break here and so it did. At the front, Meintjes, Carapaz and Higuita escaped, while Movistar increased the pace in the peloton. 2.5 kilometres from the top, the expected attack from Enric Mas came. Evenepoel, however, did not flinch, and Arensman looked strong. The overall leader also covered a move from Ayuso and the GC men came over the top together. Only Carlos Rodriguez was in trouble.
Evenepoel only had to keep his eye on Enric Mas
Again the peloton wan’t going to let the break get too much time
The lead of Meintjes, Carapaz and Higuita was never big. Their pursuers were at 30 seconds, while in the peloton an impressive Marc Soler reduced the difference from 2 to 1 minute. This forced Richard Carapaz to accelerate at the start of the Puerto de Cotos – the very last climb of the 2022 Vuelta. Only Higuita had an answer. The two had a bit of a conflict, but then rode together to defend their 1 minute lead.
Marc Soler and Robert Stannard – Stannard was collecting KOM points
Astana were looking keen
In the peloton it was a long wait for the next attack. Surprisingly, Miguel Angel Lopez’s (Astana Qazaqstan) tried 3 kilometres from the top. João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) then took over, with almost all the favourites on his wheel. The Portuguese rider wanted to keep Carlos Rodriguez at a distance, so that he would move into the top5 overall. With his fast pace, Almeida brought the GC group very close to the leading duo, but Carapaz had an extra jump with the top in sight, the Ecuadorian took another 20 seconds.
With one climb to go Remco Evenepoel looked calm
Louis Meintjes looked like he was in the winning move, but…
Carapaz only had 6 flat kilometres to ride to the finish. Evenepoel also had no more problems. Thymen Arensman tried to catch Carapaz in the final kilometres. The Dutchman came up strong, but Carapaz held him off. The INEOS-Grenadiers rider took his third stage victory in this Vuelta and Remco Evenepoel can add the Vuelta a España to his palmarès in Madrid on Sunday.
Another stage win and KOM for Richard Carapaz
Stage winner and KOM, Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers): “Yes [it’s the best of the three victories]. I was targeting this day, I knew it was very important. We knew it was a super hard stage because there were so many things at play, especially in the GC. I rode my way, being smart, making my moves when I had to. Then I enjoyed a lot of support from the breakaway riders, it was very important for me, and in the end I knew I could attack in the finale and win here. The truth is I’m very moved, it’s a very nice victory for me. Above all, I think it shows the type of rider I am. To fight for the KOM was one of goals. At the start, without going crazy, I went in the splits, I tried to be up there. Then we knew it was a very hard stage and riders were losing ground. For me, it’s spectacular to be able to win a stage with this jersey which means a lot to me. I’m very moved. Today I saw a lot of Ecuadorians cheering for me on the roads. I hope they enjoyed the race.”
No problems for Remco
Overall leader, Best Young Rider and 6th on the stage, Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl): “I don’t know what’s going through my head and my body right now. It’s amazing. All the critics and the bad comments I received after last year, I think I answered with my pedals. I’ve been working so hard to come here in the best shape possible. To now win this Vuelta is just amazing. It’s actually the first Grand Tour I start healthy. I’m really happy to be the first guy to win a Grand Tour for Patrick [Lefevere] as a CEO and for Belgium, for my country, for my teammates, for my parents, for my fiancee… I’ve been away from home so many days, so many weeks, so many months. And it’s all thanks to them as well. I was really stressed this morning. I didn’t sleep too much last night. You know what’s coming to you and it was a super tough stage. I’m just super happy that I’ve won La Vuelta. Today I responded with the legs. I didn’t think about winning the stage, I just wanted to win the general classification. I only had to follow, to control and believe in my power. In the end the race was super hard but we did really well. Yes, it’s the most beautiful day of my life. It’s an amazing year. Winning a Monument [Liège-Bastogne-Liège], winning San Sebastian again, winning two stages and the GC, and then getting married in the winter… I think it’s the best year I can imagine and wish for.”
A very emotional Evenepoel at the finish
# Stay PEZ for all the Vuelta a España news in EUROTRASH and the Final Round Up on Monday, and Sunday’s final stage. #
Vuelta a España Stage 20 Result:
1. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) INEOS Grenadiers in 4:41:34
2. Thymen Arensman (Ned) DSM at 0:08
3. Juan Ayuso (Spa) UAE Team Emirates at 0:13
4. Jai Hindley (Aus) BORA-hansgrohe
5. Enric Mas (Spa) Movistar
6. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl at 0:15
7. Louis Meintjes (SA) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
8. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana Qazaqstan
9. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates at 0:17
10. Sergio Higuita (Col) BORA-hansgrohe at 0:32.
Vuelta a España Overall After Stage 20:
1. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl in 78:00:12
2. Enric Mas (Spa) Movistar at 2:05
3. Juan Ayuso (Spa) UAE Team Emirates at 5:08
4. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana Qazaqstan at 5:56
5. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates at 7:16
6. Thymen Arensman (Ned) DSM at 7:56
7. Carlos Rodríguez (Spa) INEOS Grenadiers at 7:57
8. Ben O’Connor (Aus) AG2R Citroën at 10:30
9. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Education-EasyPost at 11:04
10. Jai Hindley (Aus) BORA-hansgrohe at 12:01.