Belgium’s grand tour drought will come to a halt on Sunday as Quick Step’s Remco Evenepoel is set to ride into Madrid as the Vuelta a España’s conquering hero. The 22-year-old budding star of the sport easily survived the penultimate stage to the Puerto de Navacerrada ski area not far from the Spanish capital, shadowing his rivals over four categorized climbs with relative ease, as he has shown throughout the race’s final week. His overnight lead of 2.05 over former teammate Enric Mas of Movistar will hold up as the final gap providing Evenepoel can simply arrive inside the final laps of Sunday’s stage on his bike.
Richard Carapaz of INEOS won today’s stage as part of his own crusade to reestablish himself as a grand tour leader, in his last such effort for his current team before he moves to EF Education for 2023. The former Giro d’Italia winner and reigning Olympic champion won his third stage of the Vuelta, a rare feat for a non-sprinter, and reeled in the King of the Mountains jersey by attacking on all of the final five mountain stages, three of which he held on to win. Carapaz dropped too much time in the race’s first 10 days to be a serious contender here and will end up in 14th place overall, but he made his point about not doubting his prospects going forward.
Behind Carapaz and the various chasing groups, there was no drama in the Red Jersey competition, as Juan Ayuso and Miguel Ángel López tried to shake free of Evenepoel, who shadowed Mas and reeled in small attacks with seemingly no trouble. Mas will finish second in the Vuelta for a third time, including twice in a row, while looking for that little something extra to get him that elusive win.
Ayuso will hang on to the final podium spot, 48” ahead of López, a sparkling result for the 19-year-old in his grand tour debut. His own future is bright, and he will likely team up with Tadej Pogacar sometime soon, when Team UAE are fully ready to flex their collective muscle.
[more to come]
Moralzarzal - Puerto de Navacerrada 181 km
One last dish of Vuelta brutality. If you feel like you have any scores left to settle in this race, now’s the time to do it.
Expected finish: 17:15 -17:45 CEST
Last-chance grabber of the Day : Richard Carapaz
His polka is safe but he could want to grab another stage and a conservative Quick Step might let him.