Soudal Quick-Step’s Belgian added another red jersey to his impressive collection.
Remco Evenepoel concluded safely in the bunch the 186.2km stage five from Morella to Burriana, after a day that featured one classified climb, 2300 vertical meters, and countless roundabouts, eight of which came in the last five kilometers.
But before leaving the fast men center stage, the red jersey had other plans, and with the help of Casper Pedersen – who provided a perfect lead-out – he won the intermediate sprint in Nules, racking up six bonus seconds which helped him extend his buffer in the general classification to eleven seconds. It was a move that caught off-guard the opponents of the 23-year-old, who at the end of the stage won by Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) took his 19th La Vuelta leader’s jersey.
“I know that these seconds won’t probably make any difference at the end of the race, but as the speed went up, I said to myself I should just go for the bonifications, especially as it didn’t cost me any energy. So far, the race was perfect for us and we hope it will continue like this”, said only the third Belgian to amass 19 leader’s jerseys at the Spanish Grand Tour.
Thursday brings the race’s second summit finish, in Aragon. Pico del Buitre, a climb taking the riders to almost 2000 meters above sea level, is 10.9 kilometers in length and averages 8%, but has some gruelling 15% slopes, some of which coming inside the final kilometer, where it is very likely to see some gaps opening between the general classification contenders.
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