Poels Wins Stage 20 of Vuelta a Espana
Saturday’s stage 20 of La Vuelta a España 2023 was the penultimate stage of this season’s last Grand Tour. The location was near Madrid and the route featured no less than ten category 3 climbs over a 207.8-kilometer distance from Manzanares El Real to Guadarrama. General classification favorites were expected to battle it out in the final mountain stage of this year’s La Vuelta.
HOW THE STAGE UNFOLDED
A large group featuring no less than 31 riders established an early breakaway and were allowed to escape and build a viable lead of more than six minutes.
The group featured noteworthy riders such as the Belgian National Champion Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep), Andreas Kron (Lotto-Dstny), Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost), Rui Costa (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty), Geraint Thomas (Ineos-Grenadiers), Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates), Wilco Kelderman (Jumbo-Visma), Ivan Garcia Cortina (Movistar Team), Romain Bardet (Team DSM), Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe), Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious), and Mattia Cattaneo (Soudal-QuickStep).
The main peloton was spearheaded and controlled by the Jumbo-Visma team, which was still in full control of the general classification before tomorrow’s final parade stage into Madrid.
On the seventh climb of the day – with 72 kilometers left of the stage – an attack was launched from the front group. Ben Zwiehoff (Bora-Hansgrohe) was the protagonist who broke the ceasefire between the breakaway hopefuls in the front group. Pelayo Sanchez also tried his luck for the Burgos-BH team. A bit later Soler launched his own attempt. But they were reeled in by the chasers.
With fifty kilometers left of today’s stage 20, the front group – which was being dominated by Evenepoel and three loyal teammates – had increased its advantage over the main peloton to more than eight minutes.
The Soudal-QuickStep quartet continued to set a fast pace in the front group, and it caused riders such as Kron, Fisher-Black, and Garcia Cortina to get dropped from the group. With forty kilometers to the finish line, the group featured 24 riders, down from 31.
As the front group approached the final climb of the day, their lead had increased to approximately eleven minutes and only twenty riders were still present in the group.
Poels attacked from the front group with 2,4 kilometers remaining of the final climb of the stage. A fast descend still awaited the riders after the climb though. Lennert van Eetvelt (Lotto-Dstny) joined the Dutchman. Soler and Pelayo Sanchez (Burgos-BH) tried to bridge the gap.
Evenepoel attacked shortly before the top of the climb, hoping to join the riders in front. He succeeded and a front group featured Evenepoel, Soler, Poels, Van Eetvelt and Sanchez was formed. They only had a few seconds advantage over a six-man chase group.
In the main peloton group Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) attacked on the climb, but Primoz Roglic immediately closed the gap in support of teammate and race leader Sepp Kuss.
The five-man front group reached the final kilometer together. Poels launched his sprint. Evenepoel countered. Poels won the sprint across the finish line and Evenepoel followed just a few centimeters behind him. It was the first stage victory for the Bahrain-Victorious team in this year’s Vuelta a Espana.
The general classification favorites and the rest of the main peloton had yet to reach the finish line. Multiple short attack attempts were launched by general classification outsiders, but Jumbo-Visma – headed by Roglic – worked efficiently to neutralize the attacks.
American Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) crossed the finish line together with teammates Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard. Kuss was smiling all over his face.
Today’s mountain stage did not result in any significant changes to the general classification. Kuss remains general classification leader before tomorrow’s stage 21 – a parade stage into the Spanish Capital Madrid. Vingegaard is second, while Roglic is third. UAE Team Emirates’ Juan Ayuso is fourth and Landa is fifth.
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