Arensman Wins Queen Stage of Vuelta in Sierra Nevada
Thymen Arensman (Team DSM/Netherlands) today climbed to a remarkable stage victory in stage 15 of La Vuelta 2022, a stage exposing the pro cyclists of the Vuelta peloton to a 23-kilometer climb to the highest point of this year’s race – the Alto Hoya de la Mora (2507 m) in the Sierra Nevada mountains, offering spectators the opportunity to enjoy a stunningly beautiful scenery of lakes and mountains.
With the race reaching the highest peak in today’s stage, the general classification contenders of this year’s Vuelta had their eyes set on making the most of the opportunities offered. Stakes had gotten even higher following race leader Remco Evenepoel’s (Team QuickStep) time losses in previous stages and defending Vuelta champion Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) showing improving form and willpower.
The hostilities were initiated soon after the start of the 152.6-kilometer stage in Martos, Andalusia with stage win hopefuls and General Classification lieutenants attacking, hoping to become part of today’s breakaway group. The intensity of the battles caused Team Bora-Hansgrohe’s Wilco Kelderman to crash and suffer significant road rash, but he fought on in support of team leader Jai Hindley.
However, it ended up taking about 28 kilometers for a decisive 29-man breakaway group to form.
The group featured noteworthy riders such as Giro d’Italia champion Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe), two-time stage winners Richard Carapaz (Ineos-Grenadiers) and Jay Vine (Team Alpecin-Deceuninck), Rigoberto Uran (Ef Education-EasyPost), Marc Soler (UAE-Team Emirates), and Team Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali who is riding the last Grand Tour of his impressive career.
Race leader Evenepoel ordered his lieutenants Fausto Masnada and Louis Vervaeke to protect him by taking part in the breakaway after defending Vuelta champion Roglic had sent his own lieutenants Rohan Dennis and Sam Oomen up the road.
The breakaway group also included Arensman, Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost), Gino Mäder (Bahrain Victorious), Sébastien Reichenbach (Groupama FDJ), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Nicolas Prodhomme (AG2R Citroën), Xabier Mikel Azparren (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Antonio Tiberi (Trek-Segafredo), Rudy Molard (Groupama FDJ), Élie Gesbert (Arkea), Rubén Fernández (Cofidis), Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), David De La Cruz (Astana), Xandro Meurisse (Alpecin Deceuninck), Omer Goldstein (Israel-Premier Tech), Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), Lawson Craddock (BikeExchange), ever active Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious), and points competition leader Mads Pedersen.
The group quickly built a four-minute lead on the main peloton that was spearheaded by Remi Cavagna and the rest of Team QuickStep in defense of their general classification leader.
Vine was first to reach the finish of the short Puerto del Castillo climb, wanting to secure additional points as leader of the mountains classification. Craddock then attacked in solo fashion and set out on a challenging mission towards the remaining climbs of the day. He was the first rider to reach Granada where he scored the most points for the points competition to much disappointment for Pedersen who got only 17 points.
As the main peloton reached the Alto del Purche climb, the QuickStep team has used up most of its energy in support of Evenepoel, so AG2R-Citroen sent their riders to the front hoping to reel in the breakaway group and set up their leader Ben O’Connor for the stage victory. Bob Jungels worked hard at the front to help his AG2R team some more in order to show his gratitude before moving to Team Bora-Hansgrohe in 2023.
Meanwhile at the front, Vine accelerated up the Alto del Purche, hoping to catch Craddock before the top and secure as many points as possible to increase his lead in the mountains classification. Vine succeeded, but the duo was caught by the chasing breakaway fighters as they approached Sierra Nevada and the Alto Hoya de la Mora.
The breakaway group maintained a 04:30 minute lead on the main peloton, but the steep 10.6-13.5 percent inclines of the beginning kilometers of the final climb split both the breakaway group and the main peloton and shook up the competition.
Soler attacked from the breakaway in a quest for stage victory. He built a 51 second lead on chasers Vine, De La Cruz, Hindley, Arensman, Meintjes, and Uran, whose form appears to be improving in what has otherwise been a disappointing Vuelta for his Education First-EasyPost outfit. Carapaz, who has won two stages in this year’s Vuelta so far, will be welcome reinforcement for the Education First team when he joins from Ineos-Grenadiers in 2023.
Showing great team loyalty and lacking all egocentrism, Carapaz chose to fall back to the main peloton group, where he then pulled hard for Carlos Rodriguez, to help him try to reinforce his general classification position.
Meanwhile, a select group of General Classification contenders had formed at the back. The group featured Evenepoel, Roglic, Enric Mas, Miguel Angel Lopez and O’Connor. Lopez attacked with 10.5 kilometers to go. Mas then attacked to gain crucial time on Evenepoel, hoping to spot cracks in his defense. With Lopez and Mas up the road, the favorites trio now included Roglic, Evenepoel and O’Connor.
With eight kilometers to go Lopez and Mas merged their efforts to gain time on Evenepoel and at the front Arensman attacked from the breakaway group and quickly caught Soler, who had been alone at the front for too long.
With Arensman powering his way up the Sierra Nevada climb to finish line glory, Evenepoel set a constant fast pace up the steep slope, hoping to discourage Roglic and O’Connor from attacking. Despite Evenepoel’s best effort, an attack did come with two kilometers to go and Roglic and O’Connor crossed the finish line 01:44 minutes after emotionally moved stage winner Arensman, with Evenepoel reaching the final meters 01:59 minutes after Arenman’s winning time of 04:17:17.
“It’s unbelievable to win here on the queen stage of the Vuelta atop Sierra Nevada,” Arensman told Roadcycling.com after being celebrated on the podium. “At the beginning of the breakaway it was really hard and we knew it would be tough on the smaller roads as we saw yesterday.”
“Joris (Nieuwenhuis) did a really good job to help me get in the breakaway. He was constantly with me in the front and I was just following his moves. It was a really hard pace so the break went by force and I made it in, which was perfect,” the stage winner explained.
“Compared to yesterday I felt like I was suffering on the steeper parts but in the end it turned out the others were suffering even more. I know that I like long hard efforts, so the finish climb really suited me,” Arensman concluded.
22-year-old Evenepoel enters the third rest day of the 2022 Vuelta a Espana with a diminished lead of 1 minute and 34 seconds over Roglic. Mas is in third position, 02:01 after Evenepoel. 19-year-old Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) is 04:49 down in fourth, and Rodriguez has dropped to fifth in the general classification after the queen stage.
“This morning I felt the legs were better than on Saturday, so I remained calm and confident the entire time even as the others were pushing that furious pace at the bottom of the last ascent,” Vuelta leader Evenepoel told Roadcycling.com after the stage. “It was the first time in my career that I finished at this altitude and I kept fighting and pushing when the others tried to make things difficult for me. Remaining calm and confident was important, and I can be content with how things went, as I didn’t lose too much time.”
“Now it will be important for me to recover for the final week of the race and keep a fresh mindset for the remaining stages. My advantage is still a good one, my team continuously does extraordinary work in support of me. It was obvious again today and we keep the same morale and motivation in our quest to stand on the highest step of the podium when the Vuelta concludes in Madrid.”