Vuelta a Espana: Belgian Remco Evenepoel wins his first Grand Tour victory
Remco Evenepoel took the final step in Madrid safely to seal victory in the general classification of the Vuelta a Espana.
The 22-year-old Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider has become the first Belgian to win a Grand Tour in 44 years.
Colombian Juan Sebastian Molano won a thrilling sprint on the 21st and final stage – a ceremonial 97km race through the Spanish capital.
Tao Geoghegan Hart was the highest placed Briton overall (GC), finishing 19th.
Fellow Briton Simon Yates, one of 49 retirements during the three-week race, was running fifth in the GC standings when he was forced to retire after stage 10 following a positive test for Covid-19.
Evenepoel finished two minutes five seconds ahead of Spaniard Enric Mas, who moved up to second place overall after Slovenian defending champion Primoz Roglic withdrew following a crash at the end of stage 16.
Roglic, 32, was second when he retired, just one minute and 26 seconds away, and was chasing a fourth consecutive title.
“I don’t know what’s going on in my head and in my body right now. It’s unbelievable,” Evenepoel said, after resist a challenge from Mas in the penultimate stage to all but seal victory in only his second Grand Tour.
Evenepoel had suffered a fractured pelvis in an accident at Il Lombardia 2020, then crashed during his first Grand Tour – last year’s Giro d’Italia – on his return to cycling.
His performance at the Giro raised doubts about his ability to challenge at elite level and become the first Belgian to win a Grand Tour since Johan de Muynck won the Giro title in 1978.
But Evenepoel bounced back to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège this year, his first victory in one of the five “Monument” one-day classic races, and boosted his potential with two stage wins at the Vuelta.
He added: “It’s really sinking in now. Yesterday the emotions were quite high, but you still have to finish the race.
“It’s history for the team, for my country and for myself. I think we can be really proud of what we have done over the last three weeks.”
Denmark’s Mads Pedersen won the green jersey by 223 points, with Briton Fred Wright second in the points standings. Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz of the Ineos Grenadiers team won the polka dot jersey as the king of the mountains.
Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, 42, who won the Vuelta in 2009 and the 2018 world road race title, has announced he will retire at the end of the season, ending a 20-year career as a professional.
dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten won the Women’s Ceratizit Challenge to achieve a historic treble after victories in the Women’s Giro d’Italia Donne and the Women’s Tour de France.
The 39-year-old’s victory was built on a superb performance on stage two to Colindres, when she overcame a 25-second deficit in the opening team time trial to build a lead of almost two minutes she defended in Madrid.
The Spanish race will become the third Grand Tour for professional women next year, renamed La Vuelta Femenina and will take place over seven days in May.
Results of the Vuelta a Espana Stage 21
1. Sebastian Molano (Col/UAE Team Emirates) 2h 26min 36sec
2. Mads Pedersen (Den/Trek-Segafredo) Same Time
3. Pascal Ackermann (All/UAE Team Emirates) Same time
4. Mike Teunissen (Ned/Jumbo-Visma) Same time
5. Danny van Poppel (Ned/Bora-Hansgrohe) Same time
6. Kaden Groves (Australia/BikeExchange-Jayco) Same time
7. Fred Wright (GB/Bahrain Victorious) Same time
8. Lionel Taminiaux (Bel/Alpecin-Deceuninck) Same time
9. Ben Turner (GB / Ineos Grenadiers) Same time
10. Cédric Beullens (Bel/Lotto-Soudal) Same time
General classification after stage 21
1. Remco Evenepoel (Bel/Quick-Step-Alpha Vinyl) 80h 26min 59sec
2. Enric Mas (Spa/Movistar) +2min 5sec
3. Juan Ayuso (Spa/UAE Team Emirates) +5min 8sec
4. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col/Astana) +5min 56sec
5. Joao Almeida (Por/UAE Team Emirates) +7min 16sec
6. Thymen Arensman (Ned/DSM) +7min 56sec
7. Carlos Rodriguez (Spa / Ineos Grenadiers) +7min 57sec
8. Ben O’Connor (Australia/AG2R-Citroën) +10min 30sec
9. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Education-EasyPost) +11mins 4secs
10. Jai Hindley (Australia/Bora-Hansgrohe) +12min 1sec