Soudal Quick-Step’s 23-year-old Belgian took his third stage at the Spanish Grand Tour and sealed the KOM classification.
Remco Evenepoel became one of the youngest riders in history to amass 50 pro wins after another incredible display of strength on a tough day of racing that contained five classified climbs, including the brutally steep Puerto de la Cruz Linares, a 9.8km ascent averaging 8.6% which made its debut in La Vuelta.
The defending champion started the stage with two goals in mind: securing the KOM jersey, which was resting on his shoulders since last Saturday, and going for a third victory at this edition. Evenepoel was ready to attack from the start, and he didn’t waste any time when it came to showing his intentions, zipping away as soon as the flag was dropped and forming a strong breakaway group together with other riders.
With the peloton having no interest in chasing them down, the fourteen men in the lead built a considerable gap which at one point reached twelve minutes. Evenepoel was the driving force of the breakaway, taking some incredibly long pulls on both the flat and the climbs, on the latter passing first over the top to add more points to his already impressive tally in the mountain classification.
The strongest rider in the group, already victorious in Arinsal and Larra-Belagua, Remco led the break onto the first ascent of Puerto de la Cruz Linares, pushing a tempo that whittled down the group to just a handful of riders. Around four kilometers from the top, he made the decisive move, a short but powerful acceleration dropping all the other men, and putting him on course for a hat-trick of mountain victories at a single edition of the Spanish Grand Tour, something no other Belgian has achieved in the nine decades since the race was created.
Diving down the descent, but without taking any risks, Remco continued to increase his advantage, starting the final climb of the day two minutes clear of his nearest opponents. With each kilometer, the 23-year-old got closer to his seventh Grand Tour stage win, which he eventually got by a huge margin, pointing to his head to indicate his amazing mental strength before making a heart shape with his hands as he crossed the line.
“I dedicate this victory to my wife. I talked with her before the stage and said that if I would win again at this race, it would be for her. I felt really good today, I had very strong legs and am proud of what I did and achieved on such a tough parcours.”
“I won three of the most beautiful stages of this Vuelta, and even though the GC plan didn’t work out, I can call this an amazing race for us. We can be happy with these three weeks. When I attacked today on the penultimate climb, I felt that I was the strongest of the group, and once I had a gap, I just kept going. To take another victory and mathematically win the KOM jersey is just incredible”, added the first Belgian rider in the last 41 years to score a hat-trick of victories at the Vuelta a España.
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