Costa Wins Stage 15 of Vuelta a Espana 2023
Stage 15 of this year’s Vuelta a Espana was a 158.3-kilometer ride from Pamplona to Lekunberri in the Navarro region. The terrain was hilly and featured three categorized climbs: the Puerto de Lizarraga (Category 3; 19.3 km; 2.7% average incline), and the Puerto de Zuarrarrate (Category 2; 6.3 km; 5.1% average incline) that would be climbed two times.
Pamplona is the hometown of former Spanish cyclist Miguel Indurain.
The stage was predicted to be contested as either a sprinter stage or a stage for the breakaway hopefuls.
HOW THE STAGE UNFOLDED
Racing was intense from the very beginning of stage 14 of La Vuelta a España 2023. Many attacks were launched and riders active from the beginning included Andreas Kron (Lotto-Dstny) and yesterday’s stage winner Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) who still had energy left in his legs.
Many riders tried their luck, including some of the general classification riders, such as EF Education-EasyPost’s Hugh Carthy, who had faltered in the race so far and were looking to compensate for their past failures.
It took more than half the total distance of today’s stage before a stable breakaway had been established.
With 65 kilometers left of the stage a front group had an approximately three-minute advantage over the main peloton that featured most of the general classification favorites.
The front group featured Evenepoel, Kron, Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious), Kenny Elissonde (Lidl-Trek), Rudy Molard (Team DSM), Nico Denz (Bora-Hansgrohe), Lennard Kämna), Jimmy Janssens (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Jonathan Klever Caicedo (EF Education-EasyPost), Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R-Citroen), Andrea Vendrame (AG2R-Citroen), Rui Costa (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty), Einer Augusto Rubio (Movistar Team), Chris Hamilton (Team DSM), and Cristian Rodriguez (Arkea-Samsic).
The front group reached the Puerto de Zuarrarrate – a climb that would be contested twice in today’s stage. Some of the riders in the front group accelerated and a small group featuring Evenepoel, Buitrago, Kämna, and Hamilton got a small gap. They were joined by other riders such as Kron, Costa, Rubio a bit later. Evenepoel was leading the way with his endless energy and passion for cycling.
The favorites were having a relatively relaxed day in the main peloton while keeping the front group within a four-minute distance. Jumbo-Visma and Alpecin-Deceuninck were at the front.
Ineos-Grenadiers’ Geraint Thomas suffered a crash in today’s stage and was seen with bruises on his left shoulder. It is the fourth time he has crashed in a race this season.
With twenty kilometers left of the stage it appeared the stage winner would be one of the riders in the breakaway group. The other riders in the front group were eagerly watching Evenepoel to be able to respond quickly to any attacks from him.
Buitrago and Costa attacked with Jimmy Janssens on the second climb of the Puerto de Zuarrarrate. Evenepoel and other riders were now 25 seconds behind the front men.
Jumbo-Visma and Lotto-Dstny were leading the main peloton up the climb with a deficit of more than three and a half minutes.
With 1.4 kilometers left of the final climb of the day Evenepoel got dropped from the chase group that was trailing the Buitrago-Costa front duo.
Kämna bridged the gap and joined Buitrago and Costa.
Buitrago was first across the top of the final major climb of the day followed by Costa and Kämna.
Costa attacked with five kilometers left. The other two closed.
Kämna attacked on the descent but crashed at high speed while cornering. Buitrago and Costa remained in front.
Kämna opened the sprint and Buitrago countered. However, Costa proved the fastest man on the day and won the sprint across the finish line. Kämna finished second, while Buitrago completed the stage podium.
There were no significant changes in the general classification after today’s stage and Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) remains general classification leader ahead of Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma). Monday is the second rest day of La Vuelta a Espana 2023.
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