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Tuesday, August 29, 2023

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Vuelta a España stage three team reports

We posted the race organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner and new GC leader Remco Evenepoel's Team Soudal Quick-Step:

Remco Evenepoel surged to his 11th win of the season on the very first summit finish of the Spanish Grand Tour – Arinsal, a hard 8.3km climb in Andorra used in the first decade of the century twice by the Volta a Catalunya. Monday’s success, his third in La Vuelta, propelled the Belgian Champion at the top of the general classification ahead of what should be two quieter days.

Remco Evenepoel wins stage three. Sirotti photo.

Stage three was a pretty calm one, despite a furious start, with the real big moves of the GC contenders coming only in the last three kilometers of the climb. Up until that point, Soudal Quick-Step had been of the teams in the spotlight, Andrea Bagioli and Mattia Cattaneo keeping an eye on the first breakaway attempts, while Pieter Serry worked hard to bring back the escapees before the final ascent of the day, where the headwind complicated things for those who wanted to make an early move.

None of the attacks that came resulted in a decisive gap, so all the favourites entered the last kilometer together. Evenepoel surprised everybody by kicking out with around 250 meters to go, a stunning acceleration which allowed him to enter first in the last corner and basically seal the victory, his fifth in a Grand Tour. Monday’s success came with multiple visits to the podium for the 23-year-old, who was awarded with the red jersey, the white one and the polka-dot tunic – meaning he now leads three of La Vuelta’s four classifications.

As he celebrated his success, Remco was involved in an incident in the meters after the finish line, where he collided with a member of the race organisation staff. Remco received a cut to his head but has been given the all clear after an examination by medics.

“I am happy with the win and the fact that I can have such a good punch after a hard climb. The team did a great job today, they were perfect, made sure of not spending too much energy, and deserve praise for their work. The guys have a lot of confidence in me and I have in them, and I am delighted this has led to a stage victory in the first week of the race.”

Evenepoel, who now has a total of 17 red jerseys in the Vuelta, continued: “The recon I did some weeks ago helped me to know about that final corner, and that’s what made the difference today. When I went and saw that I had a couple of meters over the others, I just kept pushing. It’s a win that reminded me of the one I took on La Molina, in Catalunya. Moving into the overall lead so early was never the plan, but if you can fight for a stage victory, then you always have to go for it. We will celebrate this success a bit this evening, then focus on the next days.”

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Here’s the report from third-place Juan Ayuso’s UAE Team Emirates:

Juan Ayuso showed signs his climbing form is where it needs to be in this Vuelta España with the Spanish rider taking 3rd on the first mountain stage of the race in Andorra.

UAE Team emriates was in force at the front of the race on the final climb. Sirotti photo

UAE Team Emirates had strong numbers to the fore on the stage with Marc Soler (5th), Joao Almeida (9th) and Jay Vine (12th) all within 10’’ of stage winner and new race leader Remco Evenepoel (Soudal – Quickstep).

Ayuso was first of the favourites to hit out at -4km to go with the riders of Jumbo Visma responding immediately, keen to keep things under control. It was then Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) who made a move with Marc Soler quick to respond.

The reduced group came back together at -1.5km with Evenepoel proving the quickest in the dash to the line, before crashing spectacularly shortly after the finish line.

Ayuso now moves up 60 places and sits 11th on GC ahead of stage 4 from Andorra la Vella to Tarragona (184.6km) which should be a day for the sprinters.

Ayuso: “I wanted to try something to try and take back some time on GC, but there was quite a bit of wind out there and it was tricky to get away.
I’d like to thank my teammates who did a spectacular job, in particular today Jay Vine. Soler tried to help me at the finish but it was hard to come around Remco in a finish like today. This result gives me confidence ahead of the next mountain stages.”

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Team INEOS Grenadiers posted this Vuelta report:

Thymen Arensman led the team home on the first summit finish of the Vuelta a Espana as the race entered Andorra.

The Dutchman dug deep in the final metres of stage three, crossing the line 21 seconds back on the lead group in Arinsal, after slipping back inside the closing kilometre.

Climbing to the finish at Arinsal. Sirotti photo

Arensman jumped up the general classification to 14th overall, 45 seconds back on stage winner and new leader, Remco Evenepoel (Soudal – Quick-Step).

Geraint Thomas did well to limit his losses in the final pair of kilometres, finishing 47 seconds back alongside team-mate Egan Bernal. Bernal played a selfless team role in the finale, helping Arensman to bridge back to the leaders after an initial surge on the first-category summit. He then set about supporting Thomas to the line. The pair now sit 21st and 22nd overall at 1:11.

Jonathan Castroviejo was also right to the fore as the team arrived at the final pair of climbs, pacing on the front as the GC battle picked up momentum in the race’s early stages.

At the finish Evenepoel timed his acceleration well to win the stage, a single second ahead of Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates).

Geraint Thomas:
"I felt okay in the day, but then up that last climb I didn’t feel like I had anything in there to push really. Once you’re on the back foot at the back it’s not the best place to be.

"[The stage] was kind of as expected. All the usual suspects were there and strong. When that breakaway went with Caruso we knew they’d ride to bring it back, or keep it within touching distance. It was a hard pace on the last climb and for me I just didn’t have it today.

"Obviously it’s early on and we’ve still got about 16 hard days to come. We’ll just keep fighting."

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And here's the Vuelta report from Team dsm-firmenich:

The first mountain stage at the Vuelta on Monday saw Team dsm-firmenich animate the day, setting a hard tempo and attempting to launch a counter attacking group over the penultimate climb with Romain Bardet.

Rolling out from Súria it was a fast start to the stage with multiple attacks in the peloton. The team were active in trying to make the break with Chris Hamilton particularly active in several moves that were brought back. Eventually the elastic snapped and an 11 rider group went clear with all Team dsm-firmenich riders in the peloton, attention switched to saving energy for later in the day. The breakaway were allowed to gain an advantage of almost five minutes but that slowly came back before holding steady at around three minutes as the race entered Andorra and hit the climb of Coll d’Ordino. After some good positioning and pacing work by Alberto Dainese, Lorenzo Milesi and Sean Flynn; Romain Combaud then brought the guys further forward once more before Hamilton took over at the head of the race.

Romain Bardet was 19th, at 31 seconds. Sirotti photo

Setting a strong tempo for multiple kilometres on the climb, Hamilton reduced the gap down to around two minutes before some other teams took it up and Jay Vine attacked. Bardet quickly latched onto his wheel and a potentially promising group formed but no-one wanted to pull and they were quickly caught. Sensing a slight lull, Bardet launched a strong attack and managed to get a gap over the peloton with Wilco Kelderman bridging across to him. Pulling out around five seconds or so, Kelderman didn’t rotate through due to having riders behind, and despite pushing on for a bit more, the chasing peloton brought Bardet back just before the top of the climb.

A sensible but fast descent followed, before the pace in the reduced bunch eased with Max Poole joining Bardet in there. That saw the break gain more time before the pace really increased in the final five kilometres which thinned things down dramatically. Bardet held on and fought for as long as possible, just having to let go of the GC group inside the flamme rouge before riding his own tempo to the line.

Speaking after the stage Bardet expressed: “Today we raced aggressively like we had planned. The guys did a great job and I was able to try to go clear on the penultimate climb. Unfortunately it didn’t work out, so I refocused on the final but a mechanical with one and a half kilometres to go held me back from the front group. We are looking forward to the sprint finish tomorrow.”

Team dsm-firmenich coach Phil West added: “We wanted to try for the stage win and also keep Max in the process of riding the GC. We knew that there was obviously going to be a bit of a fight in the final, so we wanted to see how far we could come as a team. We kept an eye on the break and tried to get Chris in there when the combination was right but when there were guys who are potential GC candidates, like Caruso for example, then there was no point in him being there as we expected the GC teams not to give them too much rope. Then we did some good teamwork and positioning to bring Romain and Max into the final. The boys did a really good job at that and we were present and where we needed to be coming into the climbs. Chris was able to make tempo on the Ordino so that Romain could try something over the top of it and anticipate, but we didn’t get any rope there which was a bit of shame. In the end it came to a shoot-out on the last climb. Unfortunately, Max wasn’t able to follow on the final climb today. Romain was in contention but he had a small mechanical issue with around one kilometre to go which meant that a gap opened up in front of him and he wasn’t able to come back. It’s a little bit of a shame but overall I’m happy with how the guys rode today as a team and we’ll try again in the next days.”

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