El Toro Uran Reborn at Tentudia Monastery
After what had been a lackluster and disappointing season for Team EF Education-EasyPost’s captain Rigoberto Uran, known as El Toro for his persistent willpower, great emotional spirit and impeccable fighting stamina, stage 17 of La Vuelta 2022 saw him rise from the ashes and climb to stage victory and redemption at the Monasterio de Tentudía.
Stage 17 sent the Vuelta riders into mountainous terrain on a 162.3-kilometer route from Aracena stretching further northeast to Monasterio de Tentudía – a 13th century church-fortress in the mountain town of Calera de Leon, 1,104 m above sea level. The Sierra de Tentudia is the highest point in the Badajoz province of the Extremadura region.
The Monasterio de Tentudia was first erected as a sanctuary in the 13th century in order to show gratitude to the Virgin Mary, who had answered the prayers of the Christian soldiers and intervened in a battle against Muslim troops and was upgraded to monastery in the 16th century in praise of the Virgin of Tentudia.
It was perhaps the Virgin of Tentudia who came to stage winner Uran’s aid by using her healing powers in a season that had so far been marked by disappointing performances by Uran – not least in the Tour de France, a race he loves and honors, but rode shortly after having suffered from a Covid-19 infection.
In search of success in an otherwise ruined season, Uran joined the day’s breakaway group 35 kilometers into the stage and used his experience to balance his efforts to perfection. The breakaway group featured Uran’s former teammate Lawson Craddock (BikeExchange-Jayco), Mark Soler (UAE Team Emirates), AG2R-Citroen’s Bob Jungels and Clement Champoussin, Elie Gesbert and Simon Guglielmi of Arkea-Samsic, Alessandro de Marchi (Israel-Premier Tech), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), Quentin Pacher (Groupama-FDJ), Trek-Segafredo’s Kenny Elissonde, and Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) showing his ever-present fighting will together with teammate Gino Mäder.
The breakaway group set off on their mission while the QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl team worked hard at the front of the peloton to set the right pace for their Vuelta race leader Remco Evenepoel who looked focused and motivated in the red leader jersey.
The hostilities in the breakaway group started after the group had built a lead of more than seven minutes and they approached the final climb of the day. It was then Craddock attacked solo on an uncategorized climb, hoping to leave his fellow challengers behind at start his ride up the Tentudia with a lead over his competitors. American Craddock managed to reach the Tentudia first in solo fashion and his lead increased to 26 seconds in the first part of the climb.
While Astana, Movistar, Ineos-Grenadiers led the main peloton into the climb focusing on the general classification, the hostilities in the breakaway increased as the contestants realized they had a sufficient lead on the peloton to avoid getting caught.
Champoussin, Gesbert and Uran attacked in an attempt to reel in Craddock. Four kilometers from the finish line, Craddock’s lead was reduced to a miniscule ten seconds and the chasing trio soldiered on in their quest for success.
Herrada, Soler and Pacher bridged across to the Uran trio and the increased pace caused Gesbert to be dropped. With one kilometer to go, Uran and Herrada caught Craddock and Uran set a hard pace, hoping to open a gap on Herrada and in search of redemption for his otherwise failed season. With Pacher having rejoined Herrada and Uran, Herrada looked strong and initiated an attack, but he eventually failed in his attempt at keeping up with Uran’s relentless tempo and willpower.
Uran won the stage in 03:42:28 ahead of Pacher and Herrada, followed by Soler and Elissonde. Uran’s victory also caused him to jump to 9th place in the general classification.
Meanwhile, the general classification favorites were attacking each other on their way towards the finish at Monasterio de Tentudia. Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) crossed the finish line nine seconds ahead of Evenepoel closely tailed by Enric Mas (Movistar Team). 19-year-old Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) chased two seconds behind, followed by Giro d’Italia winner Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ).
Uran’s Vuelta stage victory sees him join the group of riders who have won stages in all three Grand Tours.
“It’s beautiful to win in the Vuelta,” Columbian Rigoberto Uran explained after the finish. “I’ve been looking for this for several years because I’ve already won at the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. So as a grand tourrider, to win here is something very special. It’s not just this year that I was looking for this win, I’ve been chasing it for years, so I’m very happy and I want to thank the team and my family.”
"I hope this win shows all cyclists that we always have to believe and fight, even if sometimes the results seem far off,” Uran explained to Roadcycling.com. “The important thing for riders to do is to get up every day and ride with a good attitude, with happiness and with hope. Then the results will follow.”
In the general classification Evenepoel leads La Vuelta 02:01 minutes ahead of Mas and 04:51 minutes ahead of Ayuso. Carlos Rodriguez is in fourth for his Ineos-Grenadiers team, followed by Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates).
“I expected Mas to attack, I knew he would want to see how I reacted, but I felt good, despite not being the easiest of finishes, with some steep gradients in the final part, all this after another fast and nervous stage,” Vuelta leader Evenepoel explained.
“The team was very good again today, they set the tempo and protected me until the climb, where Dries (Devenyns) put me in a good position, so all I had to do there was to follow the moves. I’m satisfied with how things went, but we have a couple more difficult days left here and we must keep the same focus,” Evenepoel concluded.
Primoz Roglic abandoned this year’s Vuelta following his finish sprint crash in yesterday’s stage 16.