Evenepoel Wins La Vuelta Stage 18 on Alto de Piornal
Team QuickStep’s 22-year-old Belgian dynamo Remco Evenepoel today took his second stage victory in this year’s Vuelta a Espana after an impressive climbing performance on the Alto de Piornal and a subsequent sprint effort, powering away from the front trio.
By winning today’s Vuelta stage, Evenpoel increased his overall race lead by six seconds. Second place finisher Enric Mas (Movistar Team), who is also second in the general classification, is now 02:07 behind Evenepoel.
Stage 18 offered the riders a 192-kilometer mountainous route in the Extremadura region from Trujillo to Alto de Piornal, a 13.3-kilometer category one climb with an average gradient of 5.6 percent.
A large breakaway group of more than 40 riders had established early in the stage and it long appeared likely that breakway compatriot Robert Gesink (Team Jumbo-Visma) would take the stage victory in the absence of team captain Primoz Roglic.
Approximately 100 kilometers from the finish, the UAE Team Emirates had increased the pace in the main peloton and GC favorites group for Spaniard Juan Ayuso, hoping to be able to advance their 19-year-old surprise ace further in the general classification.
Meanwhile at the front, Gesink had attacked solo and thought he was on his way to victory when the hostilities started between the general classification favorites behind, causing Gesink’s lead to evaporate quickly. Enric Mas and other GC hopefuls attacked several times on the final ascent, but race leader Evenepoel responded forcefully and initiated a powerful attack that eventually saw him pass Gesink and Mas and take the stage victory.
“I am very happy with this victory, it’s another great achievement in my life to win a mountain stage in a Grand Tour,” proud stage winner Evenepoel told Roadcycling.com after being celebrated on the podium. “It’s an important success for my confidence and for the morale of our team, but additionally because it showed that I have good legs going into the last days of the Vuelta.”
”It was a hard stage, with lots of attacks that came early, but we remained calm. If there’s one thing I have learned these past couple of weeks it is to remain calm.”
“The Vuelta is not finished before we reach Madrid, so I’m not thinking of the overall win at the moment. What I can promise is that we will keep fighting and we’ll try to keep the jersey. We’ve had a successful race so far and we’ll do our best to carry the red jersey to Madrid,” Evenepoel promised.
Tomorrow’s stage is expected to be dominated by sprinters and should not cause any changes in the general classification. The final mountains will be contested in Saturday’s stage 20 (three category one climbs) before Sunday’s victory parade stage into the capital of Madrid.