Evenepoel Climbs to Victory in Stage 18 of Vuelta a Espana 2023
Thursday’s stage 18 of La Vuelta a España 2023 invited the professional cycling peloton to an additional battle in the Spanish mountains. The stage began in Pola de Allande and concluded on La Cruz de Linares.
Longer than yesterday’s concentrated effort, the 178.9-kilometer route featured five categorized climbs: the Alto de las Estacas (Category 2; 5.2 km; 7.3% average incline), the Puerto de San Lorenzo (Category 1; 10 km; 8.5% average incline), the Alto de Tenebredo (Category 3; 3.4 km; 9.4% average incline), and the Puerto de la Cruz de Linares (Category 1; 8.3 km; 8.5% average incline), which would be climbed twice in today’s challenging mountain stage.
HOW THE STAGE UNFOLDED
After the riders were released following the neutralized phase, it did not take long before attacks were launched. Many riders appeared eager to make the most of today’s opportunity in the Spanish mountain territory. Several teams had yet to win stages in the final Grand Tour of the 2023 season and many riders were still in the need of stage victories to prove their worth and improve their chances of negotiating attractive contracts for the 2024 cycling season.
Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) was again active at the front of the peloton. Today was a great opportunity for him to fight for a stage victory and gain as many points as possible in the stage to increase his lead in the Best Climber Competition and keep the blue-dotted jersey.
Several riders joined Evenepoel on the attack and eventually a group of fourteen riders formed a viable advantage over the main peloton. The group featured Evenepoel, Egan Bernal (Ineos-Grenadiers), Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious), Julien Bernard (Lidl-Trek), Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ), Lorenzo Germani (Groupama-FDJ), Nico Denz (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jarrad Drizners (Lotto-Dstny), Andreas Kron (Lotto-Dstny), Andrea Piccolo (EF Education-EasyPost), Imanol Erviti (Movistar Team), Max Poole (Team DSM), Hugo Hofstetter (Arkea-Samsic), and Paul Ourselin (TotalEnergies).
After some initial disputes between some of the breakaway participants, the riders started cooperating well and built a lead of more than seven minutes over the main peloton, which was spearheaded by the Jumbo-Visma team.
Evenepoel was first across the top of the Alto de las Estacas, which was the first climb of the day. He was followed by Hofstetter and Denz.
The advantage of the front group had increased to ten minutes as they approached the Puerto de San Lorenzo (Category 1; 10 km; 8.5% average incline) with approximately 100 kilometers left of the stage.
Evenepoel led the breakaway group on its way up the Puerto de San Lorenzo climb, and he was also first across the top of the mountain.
When the front group – still led by Evenepoel – reached the Puerto de la Cruz de Linares (Category 1; 8.3 km; 8.5% average incline) for the first time, the group had been reduced to four participants: Evenepoel, Kron, Caruso and Poole. Bernal, Bernard, Piccolo and Ourselin were chasing some seconds behind.
Kron got dropped from the front group in the beginning of the climb. The main peloton was still being led by the Jumbo-Visma team.
While the Bahrain-Victorious team moved to the front of the main peloton to set a faster pace, Evenepoel continued up the climb more than ten minutes ahead of them. He had now dropped all other riders from the breakaway group. Poole was chasing the Belgian slightly ahead of Caruso. Kron was thirty seconds behind.
Evenepoel continued to set a fast pace on the Puerto de la Cruz de Linares and the descent that followed. When he approached the Puerto de la Cruz de Linares for the second time, he had a lead of almost two minutes over the chase duo that featured Caruso and Poole. Kron was further twenty seconds behind.
Evenepoel continued his solo quest on the final climb and extended his lead over the chasers, and he remained solo all the way across the finish line. Evenepoel took a beautiful stage victory after a remarkable and memorable effort that animated the race and made the stage an interesting watch for spectators along the route and around the world.
Evenepoel won stage 18 of La Vuelta a España 2023 in 04:47:37. Caruso crossed the finish line in second place but was more than four minutes behind the Belgian stage winner. Denmark’s Kron completed the stage podium 05:10 minutes after Evenepoel.
While Evenepoel was busy preparing for a podium visit, Bahrain-Victorious led the favorites group on the final climb to the finish line. Wout Poels was the man in front.
In the favorites group Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) attacked with 2.2 kilometers left. Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) got dropped. Landa attacked again and Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) responded.
Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) pulled the favorites group in the final kilometer.
Ayuso was the first man from the favorites group to reach the finish line. He was joined by Enric Mas (Movistar Team), Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) and Primoz Roglic. Landa crossed the finish line three seconds later. Vingegaard followed six seconds later.
Kuss remains general classification leader ahead of Vingegaard and Roglic. Ayuso is fourth while Landa is fifth.
Remaining sprinters in the Vuelta peloton will be looking forward to Friday’s stage 19 of La Vuelta a Espana 2023. The 177.1-kilometer route is in flat terrain and takes the riders from La Baneza to Izcar. Look for a breakaway group to work hard for a stage win and for a sprinter to be celebrated on the podium.
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