TRUJILLO, Spain – Remco Evenepoel showed who is in charge at the Spanish Vuelta.
The absolute leader made a strong statement as he took the stage 18 victory, fending off his rivals and heading for victory at the top.
It was the second victory for the 22-year-old Belgian from the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team.
“It was the most beautiful day of my life,” Evenepul said. “The victory in the Vuelta is not over yet, there is a really difficult stage ahead. They will definitely attack me. But maybe now it’s easier to control because I feel like my legs are really good. It’s been very good for me and for the team over the past three days.”
The big stage win came a day after three-time reigning champion Primož Roglic, who was his closest rival, withdrew from the competition due to crash injuries.
The backlog of Evenepol from the second place of Enric Mas from the Movistar team was more than two minutes. The Spaniard kept a close eye on Evenepole on Thursday and crossed the line just two seconds behind him at Alto de Pjornal.
“It was a pretty tough stage with some really hard climbs in the final,” Evenepoel said. “The race was really tough, but we always kept our cool. I think that’s what I’ve learned to always stay calm.”
Evenepoel has led the race since Stage 6, the longest period on top for a Belgian in a Grand Tour race since Johan de Muynck won the Giro d’Italia in 1978. This was Belgium’s last victory in the three-week run. .
Stage 19 is a short circuit with two mountain passes in Talavera de la Reina. The race ends on Sunday in Madrid.
WOLLONGONG, Australia. Ellen van Dijk defended her title and took her third gold medal in the women’s time trial at the opening of the Road Cycling World Championships on Sunday.
Taking advantage of the technical track, the Dutch star maintained a perfect pace to pass Australia’s Grace Brown by 12.79 seconds to defend gold in the time trial she won last year. Bronze went to Swiss Marlene Reusser.
Local favorite Brown was an early starter and had a brilliant time on the 34.2 km (21.3 miles) circuit in the picturesque waterfront city center of Wollongong, south of Sydney.
No one on the 45-man team could come close to Brown’s time of 44m41.33s until the last pairing of van Dijk and Reusser, who took silver at last year’s World Championships in Belgium, showed more results on the first check.
Reusser then beat Brown’s time by over 41 seconds, but van Dijk earned her third gold medal with a time of 44:28.60.
Olympic time trial champion and two-time world champion Annemiek van Vleuten finished seventh, more than 90 seconds behind compatriot van Dijk.
Later on Sunday, Vuelta a España winner Remco Evenepoel of Belgium, two-time world champion Filippo Ganna of Italy and two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia will lead the men’s event.
Other big races are the mixed time trial relay on Wednesday and the women’s road race next Saturday before the men’s race on Sunday’s closing day, where local star and Giro d’Italia winner Jai Hindley races against the clock to recover from COVID-19 to take his place in the race.
Remco Evenepoel put the hard times behind him with the biggest win of his career.
Two years ago, he flew off a bridge and had a terrible accident that left him hospitalized for several days. A year ago, the great cyclist questioned his loyalty to his teammates.
All of that was forgotten when 22-year-old Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s Evenepoel won the Spanish Vuelta with his first Grand Tour victory.
“This is a story for the team, for my country, for myself,” Evenepul said. “I think we can really be proud of what we’ve done in the past three weeks.”
It was a landmark victory for Evenepol, who became the first Belgian to win a major three-week tournament since Johan de Muynck won the Giro d’Italia in 1978. 114 drivers at the Vuelta in 1993.
Evenepoel crossed the line for the last time in the leader’s red jersey in a celebratory final round through the streets of the Spanish capital, then received hugs and kisses from his partner before hoisting his bike over his head in front of his teammates.
“Now it’s really realized, it’s really official,” he said. “Emotions were high enough yesterday. We were actually there, but we still needed to finish the race safe and sound. We enjoyed as much as we could, and now we can really enjoy.”
Colombian Juan Sebastian Molano of Team Emirates won the final stage 21 in Madrid ahead of Mads Pedersen and Pascal Ackermann.
Evenepool, who has worn the red jersey since taking the lead on stage 6 and overcoming a serious crash on stage 12, secured the victory by pinning Enric Mas and the rest of his rivals in the final competitive stage.
Evenepoel finished 2 minutes and 2 seconds ahead of Mas from the Movistar team. Another Spaniard was third, with Juan Ayuso finishing nearly five minutes ahead of UAE Team Emirates.
Evenepoel didn’t have to worry about three-time reigning champion Primoz Roglic, who was forced to retire due to injuries sustained in a crash near the end of stage 16. of the many riders who had to withdraw during the race due to positive coronavirus tests.
For Evenepoel, it was about using his pedals to answer his doubters and critics, including Eddy Merckx, the Belgian great who said last year that the youngster was unwilling to ride for his team.
Also last year, Evenepoel was thrown into the hurdles on stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia, and the year before, he survived a nasty crash in which he fell several meters (yards) off a bridge and was hospitalized with a fracture. pelvis
This year’s Vuelta was an emotional farewell for veteran Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, 2009 champion, and Italian driver Vincenzo Nibali, 2010 Vuelta winner. Both are about to retire and have been greeted by other cyclists with a guard of honor.