The Belgian took his 12th success of the season after an incredible raid and exhibition.
Remco Evenepoel powered to his second victory at this year’s race, coming out on top on the last day in the Pyrenees following a massive display of strength, guts and character. It was the Belgian Champion’s 49th pro victory, and it came at the end of a 156.5km stage that took the riders over four classified climbs – Col Hourcére, Puerto de Larrau, Puerto de Laza and Larra-Belagua – just 24 hours after the tough day he endured on the road to the Tourmalet.
“Yesterday was a very difficult day! I couldn’t sleep well after the stage. I had a bad night with many negative thoughts, but when I woke up this morning, I said to myself that I would try my best and give everything. I knew this stage from the recon I did – I knew the climbs and the descents, and was very motivated to do well. Winning it after what happened on the previous day makes me very happy”, said Evenepoel after Saturday’s emotional victory.
Remco was the one who ignited the fireworks early, basically mere seconds after the flag was waved in Sauveterre-de-Béarn. It was the first of multiple attacks launched in the first 30 kilometers by Evenepoel, who kept trying and insisting, despite being brought back twice, before a breakaway finally formed. Ahead of the first ascent of the day, more riders joined the leading group, one of whom was the incredible Mattia Cattaneo, who put himself in the service of the defending champion, working tirelessly on the slopes of Hourcére.
Just before the top, Evenepoel put in a short dig to claim the points, and from a move which initially looked to be a brief one, it turned into being the decisive one. Together with Romain Bardet (DSM-Firmenich), Soudal Quick-Step’s 23-year-old pressed on and pulled away on the descent, putting more than two minutes into their former companions and almost eight minutes between them and the peloton.
Always in control, extremely confident and boasting a fantastic motivation and desire to show what he is capable of, Evenepoel impressed with the amount of sheer power displayed at the front of the race, his long pulls on the climbs resulting in a decisive gap over the chasers by the time they arrived on Larra-Belagua. There, with four kilometers to go, the stage three winner upped the pace and dropped Bardet, surging clear and arriving alone at the finish, where seconds after celebrating his sixth Grand Tour stage success, he was overcome by emotions and tears as he put behind the disappointment, pain and doubts of Friday’s stage.
“Today we rode full gas from the start. I felt good and was always there, every time there was an attempt to form a group. Mattia helped me a lot on the first climb, he set a big tempo and I want to thank him for his work. When I got clear together with Romain, we worked well and had an agreement that I would pace on the climbs as long as he rode with me on the flat. On the final ascent, I just had something extra and that was enough for the win. This answer and my second stage victory in the race make me very proud.”
“This makes up for the disappointment I endured yesterday. I want to thank everyone who believed in me and supported me: my wife, my family, and my team. Now I lead the mountains classification, and with plenty of stages left at the Vuelta, winning it in Madrid can become a goal”, added a smiling Remco in regards to the sixth different jersey he will wear since the start of the Spanish Grand Tour.
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