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On the Scene at the Vuelta

I was able to catch the last eight stages of the Vuelta this year.

Stage 14 had a wild final kilometer, with a steep descent before the 500-meter climb to the finish at Sierra de la Pandera. I watched from the 500-meter mark, so I could see the descent and then the riders passed me as they were beginning to climb again.

Richard Carapaz was the first to appear, on his way to the stage victory, and Miguel Angel Lopez and Primoz Roglic were close behind, gaining 48 seconds on race leader Remco Evenepoel.

The later arrivals had to deal with two-way traffic on the narrow descent, as early finishers rode back to the team bus parking nine kilometers from the finish.

At the stage 15 finish atop the 2,512-meter Alto Hoya de la Mora climb, twenty-two-year-old Thymen Arensman looked like he couldn’t believe it as he took the biggest win of his young career, then appeared to double over in pain after crossing the finish line.

Enric Mas finished second on the stage as the Spanish flags waved, and Roglic cut another 15 seconds into Evenepoel’s overall lead.

Evenepoel stopped just after the finish line to catch his breath and have a drink.

Stage 16 was a heartbreaker, with Roglic crashing in the finishing straight as Mads Pedersen outsprinted Pascal Ackermann and Danny van Poppel for the stage win.

His teammate Mike Teunissen helped the injured Roglic across the finish line. Roglic had gained another eight seconds on Evenepoel, but his injuries forced him to drop out of the race the next morning.

Rigoberto Uran won stage 17 on the uphill finish to Monasterio de Tentudia, ahead of his breakaway companions Quentin Pacher and Jesus Herrada.

Herrada, who had attacked first and seemed about to win the stage before he was passed by Uran in the final 200 meters, collapsed just past the finish line, in front of our photographer position, and was comforted by a Cofidis soigneur.

Vincenzo Nibali didn’t make a lot of waves in this, the final grand tour of his stellar career, but it was cool to see him there all the same.

At the start of stage 19, the Ineos team and British riders from other teams were invited to the front of the assembled peloton for a moment of silence following the death of Queen Elizabeth the day before.

At the finish, everything was coming up green for stage winner Mads Pedersen.

The first of stage 20’s five climbs finished just a few hundred meters from the stage finish at Puerto de Navacerrada, so I saw the riders at the top of that first climb and at the finish. The eventual winner of the race’s prize for most combative rider, Marc Soler, was, as usual, in the early break over the first climb.

Clement Champoussin’s pain face is kid-at-a-candy-store.

Richard Carapaz won the stage in the mountains classification jersey, and a few seconds later, Evenepoel crossed the finish line in tears, having sealed his overall Vuelta victory.

On the podium, Evenepoel teared up again, but he was all smiles when he spotted his teammate Dries Devenyns passing the podium stage, and jumped down from the white jersey podium to greet him.

The Vuelta’s finale was an evening stage, and it was already dusky as the riders completed ten circuits through the streets of Madrid before the sprint finish won by Juan Molano.

The podium ceremony began with a celebration of the career of 2009 Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde, who had just finished the 16th and final Vuelta of his long career.

Remco Evenepoel with his trophy, and the Vuelta podium of Evenepoel, Enric Mas, and Juan Ayuso: