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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, September 11, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2022 Giro d'Italia

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Marcus Aurelius: Meditations

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Vuetla a España stage twenty reports

We posted the report from the race organizer with the results.

Here's the report from GC leader Remco Evenepoel's Team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl:

Remco Evenepoel is twenty-four hours away from turning what started as a dream into beautiful reality, as he prepares to write history and bring Belgium a Grand Tour victory that the cycling-crazed nation has been waiting for 44 years. A success that comes in just his fourth season as a pro and one that promises to change the life of Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s 22-year-old, who at this tender age can call himself a Monument and a Grand Tour champion.

Remco Evenpoel has one more day to go. Sirotti photo

“I don’t know what’s going through my head and body at the moment. The only thing I know is that I am happy. Happy that a dream came true and that I proved what I am capable of. Happy that I am the first to win a Grand Tour for Patrick and happy I did it in this fantastic team”, said Remco, who will become the youngest rider in 61 years to triumph at La Vuelta.

Victorious in two stages and with the red jersey on his shoulders for two straight weeks at the start of Saturday’s stage 20, Remco knew we had one last hurdle to pass – the mountainous loop in the tricky sierras of Madrid, which this century spelled the end of many riders’ GC hopes of glory. His opponents were aware of this, and as soon as the flag was waved, they threw everything at him, putting pressure on the Belgian as they relentlessly attacked on the rolling roads to Puerto de Navacerrada.

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl weathered those stinging attacks, while Evenepoel remained calm in his team, his form and the two-minute advantage he carried in the general classification. To no surprise, the peloton crumbled on the first climb of the day, but Louis Vervaeke and Ilan Van Wilder remained by Remco’s side, before getting reinforcements in the valley, where they were joined by Rémi Cavagna, Dries Devenyns and Fausto Masnada.

Our team controlled things and set a steady tempo that put a brake to all the attacking all the way until Puerto de la Morcuera, the stage’s penultimate climb. Evenepoel’s rivals unleashed a series of powerful accelerations, making a selection that left only around ten riders there, but the Belgian responded with ease and maturity to these actions before taking over the front, sending a clear message to his opponents.

Despite the presence of one more climb on the course, Puerto de Cotos – in truth, a different side of Navacerrada – nothing changed until the finish, where Evenepoel concluded with the other GC contenders before letting emotion overcome him in disbelief and jumping into the mass of outstretched arms – tears flowing down his face – of those waiting for him at the finish.

“I didn’t sleep too much last night, and this morning, before the start, I was quite stressed, but during the race I felt better and was relaxed, having confidence in myself and the Wolfpack. I knew that all I had to do was control and follow my opponents, and everything ran smoothly, just as we wanted.”

“This is the biggest victory, the biggest moment of my career, and it feels incredible. It’s for my parents, my fiancée, my teammates. It’s the result of many weeks and months of hard work and sacrifices and always believing in yourself. I love racing in Spain, I have had success here since my first pro season and to win La Vuelta is a dream. It wasn’t easy, I had some stiff opposition, but I did it and I can’t tell you how much this means for me”, concluded Remco, who will now be part of a select group of riders who’ve won a Monument and a Grand Tour in the same season.

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Here's the report from stage winner Richard Carapaz's Team INEOS Grenadiers:

Richard Carapaz put in an impressive and battling ride to clinch a third stage win of this Vuelta a Espana and all but wrap up the polka dot jersey.

Richard Carapaz wins stage 20. Sirotti photo

The Ecuadorian was active from the very start of the 20th stage, making decisive attacks to rack up enough points to make sure of the mountains classification, which he looks set to secure on Sunday in Madrid.

With the GC contenders closing in, Carapaz never gave up and launched a final acceleration over the top of the final climb. He then dug deep to maintain his slender advantage on the flat final 6km to the line.

Behind the team worked hard to support Carlos Rodriguez, who was forced to ride within himself, still suffering from his crash earlier in the week. The Spanish champion was forced to set his own rhythm any time the tempo rose up ahead. Eventually Rodriguez came home in seventh overall, one tantalising second off sixth place. Despite that it remains an incredible performance in his Grand Tour debut, with his teammates all devoting themselves to helping him on this final day in the mountains.

The race finishes on Sunday evening in Madrid, where Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step - AlphaVinyl) is set to be crowned overall winner.

Richard Carapaz:
"Yes [it’s the best of the three victories]. I was targeting this day, I knew it was very important. We knew it was a super hard stage because there were so many things at play, especially in the GC. I rode my way, being smart, making my moves when I had to. Then I enjoyed a lot of support from the breakaway riders, it was very important for me, and in the end I knew I could attack in the finale and win here.

"The truth is I’m very moved, it’s a very nice victory for me. Above all, I think it shows the type of rider I am. To fight for the KOM was one of the goals. At the start, without going crazy, I went in the splits, I tried to be up there. Then we knew it was a very hard stage and riders were losing ground.

"For me, it’s spectacular to be be able to win a stage with this jersey which means a lot to me. I’m very moved. Today I saw a lot of Ecuadorians cheering for me on the roads. I hope they enjoyed the race."

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Second-place Thymen Arensman's Team DSM posted this report:

The final mountain stage at the Vuelta lay ahead of the riders this afternoon as they rolled out of Moralzarzal, with almost 4000 metres of climbing spread throughout the stage. It was a fierce start to the day with an incredible amount of attacks at the head of the race, with the team riding strongly in support of Thymen Arensman as they tackled the first climb.

Eventually things settled down and the squad regrouped and rallied around Arensman over the next ascents, before the race once again exploded on the second last climb of the day. Flanked by Marco Brenner and Joris Nieuwenhuis for a long portion of the ascent, Arensman showed great legs by following strong attacks by Mas and Evenepoel and crested the ascent in an elite GC group.

However, on the valley road before the final climb things regrouped and those dropped GC riders returned; setting up a fierce finale on the last ascent. A strong tempo was set by UAE and they slowly whittled down the GC group, with Arensman riding strongly to make the split.

With Carapaz still 25 seconds ahead as they hit the flatter final four kilometres, Arensman launched a vicious attack from the back of the GC group. Putting his head down and pushing all the way to the line, Arensman took a brilliant second place on the stage, eight seconds behind Carapaz. A nervous few minutes awaited to hear what the gap was too Rodriguez who had been dropped, but the bonus seconds combined with his late attack would see Arensman move up to sixth place on GC for the team ahead of tomorrow’s final stage.

Thymen Arensman winning stage 15. Sirotti photo

“We knew it would be a really hard day but the whole team was prepared for it,” explained Arensman at the finish. “We made sure in the beginning that a dangerous break didn’t get away. On the first climb it was a really hard pace but Marco and Joris did a really good job. I felt pretty good already on that first climb, I was always in control and not suffering – and I knew I had good legs. During the stage we sat together well and the guys made sure that I had everything I needed. When the second last climb came we knew that the race would explode.

"It felt really good when Mas made his attack and only Evenepoel followed and then I was the only other one who could quickly get in the wheel – that gave me more confidence. Over the top we were in a small group and of course I went hard but I felt like I still had something left, and then it came back together. UAE then set a nice pace on the last climb and Rodriguez dropped. I asked Matt in the car what the gap was when we were on the plateau, and I just went for it on a little kicker. I went full gas in the last four kilometres and in the end it was enough to take second on the stage and overtake Rodriguez on the GC. To take sixth on GC is a really nice achievement and we’ll make sure to try and hold onto that tomorrow.”

Team DSM coach Matt Winston added: “It was a really good day for us. The boys all really came together and rallied around Thymen, looking after him as best as we could throughout the day. In fact the whole team did, we had lots of people throughout the day with bottles at the side of the road and giving us info on the race situation in the car; so we were on top of it as much as we could be. Then when we came over the last climb Thymen launched a really good attack and just went full to the finish. He was able to take a nice second place on the day and move up to sixth on GC. It was just a really good day from everyone here and we can be happy with the result.”

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Fourth-place Jai Hindley's Team Bora-hansgrohe sent me this:

One day before the Vuelta comes to a close, the race went into the mountains for the last time, with the 20th stage posing a real challenge. On the 181 km long route between Moralzarzal and Puerto de Navacerrada in the Sierra de Guadarrama there were five steep climbs and 4000 meters of altitude to be taken on. Right from the get go, attacks came from the peloton until a small break formed on the first climb. A little later, a larger chase group formed, which included Sergio Higuita, but it fell apart somewhat throughout the race. Back in the peloton, which was more than five minutes behind at the halfway point of the race, BORA - hansgrohe took over the pace setting, since Louis Meintjes, who was behind Jai Hindley in the GC, was also in the break. In the decisive phase of the race, a chasing group with Sergio managed to catch up with the leaders.

With about 15 km to go, Richard Carapaz attacked at the front, but Sergio was able to follow. Behind him in the group of favourites there was a flurry of attacks, while just before the top of the last climb the Ecuadorian rode off to take his third stage win. Jai fought his way to a strong 4th place and remains tenth overall ahead of tomorrow's sprint stage.

Team Bora-hansgrohe riders pick up thier bikes before the stage start. Sirotti photo

"It was a really hard day today, but we knew it wouldn't be easy. There were some pretty strong riders in the break, so it was a good group, and I was pleased to have made it into that group. When Meintjes attacked, I tried to follow him along with Carapaz. I stayed with him on the final climb, and we worked together to build up our advantage. When he attacked, I again tried to follow, but he was just too strong. When the GC group caught up, I tried to support Jai to get a good result in the sprint and also to maintain his top 10 in the GC. Honestly, I felt good today, compared to previous days at this Vuelta, so that is a good sign, and I'm pleased with my ride." - Sergio Higuita

"We knew right from the start that the 20th stage would be another really tough one, which could also bring some changes in the general classification. For us it was important to go for a stage win and also secure Jai's tenth place in the GC. Then a situation arose where Meintjes, who was only two minutes behind Jai in the GC, became part of a large breakaway group. We then set the pace with Jonas Koch and Ryan Mullen. Later Matteo Fabbro and Wilco Kelderman took over to keep the gap to the front reasonable. We managed that well. In the race it became more and more difficult from that point onwards. Jai didn't have his best day today, but he managed to finish among the best. He even finished fourth. Sergio also rode strongly but unfortunately just missed the victory. It is a shame of course that he was not rewarded for his strong work. It's a little frustrating regarding the stage win today, because we really came close to it today." - Jens Zemke, Sportlicher Leiter

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