Evenepoel, like a boss

La Vuelta 2022 | Stage 18 | Trujillo > Alto de Piornal

Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) surged to victory atop the Alto de Piornal after an all out battle on the mountains of Extremadura on stage 18 of La Vuelta 22. UAE Team Emirates upped the ante with 100km to go, Enric Mas (Movistar) and his GC rivals attacked several times on the final ascent of the day… But the young Belgian responded with maestria. He eventually caught up to the early attacker Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma) inside the final kilometre and dominated a 3-man sprint against the Dutch veteran and Mas. Evenepoel takes his second stage win and his 13th La Roja, achieving the longest run atop the overall standings of a Grand Tour for a Belgian rider since Johan De Muynck won the Giro 1978 - the last victory to date for Belgium in a three-week event. Evenepoel has three more days to go to Madrid.

Highlights - Stage 18 | #LaVuelta22

La Vuelta 22 rises on Thursday with a mountain stage featuring three categorised ascents on the way to an unprecedented summit finish atop Alto de Piornal. The peloton face 192km of racing with 3,550m of elevation. 136 riders start from Trujillo without Samuele Battistella (Astana Qazaqstan) and Bruno Armirail (Groupama-FDJ), who were ill.

Vine abandons, the breakaway impresses

It’s an all out battle from the start, with attackers covering 49.9km in the first hour before a 42-man break gets away. There is no direct GC threat at the front, as Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) is the best rider in the overall standings (16th, +26’20’’).

The Ecuadorian climber leads the virtual KOM standings after Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) was forced to abandon in a crash that also involved Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Grenadiers), 4th of the overall standings (+5’20’’).

Enric Mas (Movistar) has two teammates in the break: Nelson Oliveira and Carlos Verona. On the day after Rigoberto Uran’s victory at Monasterio de Tentudia, EF Education-EasyPost have five riders at the front: Hugh Carthy, Merhawi Kudus, Mark Padun, James Shaw and Julius van den Berg. The likes of Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan) are also up there.

Almeida’s move

Remco Evenepoel’s Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl are willing to let the break go. The gap is up to 9 minutes when UAE Team Emirates turn the race upside down just ahead of the first ascent of the day, the cat-2 Alto de la Despera (summit at km 109.7). Pascal Ackermann, Juan Sebastian Molano and Brandon McNulty launch Joao Almeida (6th overall, +6’51’’) on the move.

At the summit, the Portuguese gets back to his teammate and compatriot Ivo Oliveira, who was also in the breakaway. They’ve brought the gap down to 4’45’’. Astana Qazaqstan drive the bunch for Miguel Angel Lopez, 1’30’’ further down.

An all out battle on the Alto de Piornal

At the bottom of the first ascent of the cat-1 Alto de Piornal (km 151.2), Almeida trails by 3’15’’ and the peloton follow with a gap of 4’. Carthy attacks at the front of the race. Pinot and Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) are the quickest to react. Carapaz sets off in pursuit and bridges the gap towards the summit with Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma) and Elie Gesbert (Arkea Samsic).

Joao Almeida trails by 2’30’’. He now enjoys the support of Marc Soler. In the peloton, Miguel Angel Lopez accelerates. Rodriguez struggles to react but the GC group gets back together, 45’’ behind Almeida.

Evenepoel’s raw power

At the bottom of the final climb (13.4km at 5.6%), the Almeida group trail by 1’14’’ and the GC group by 1’49’’. Gesbert attacks early on the ascent. Gesink joins him at the front with 8.5km to go and drops him a couple of kilometres later.

In the GC group, Mas accelerates for the first time with 10km to go. Evenepoel counters with 8.5km to go. They get back to the Almeida group. Mas tries again several times, but Evenepoel is always able to respond.

The duo eventually catch up to Gesink with 400m to go. Evenepoel unleashes his raw power to take a 2nd stage win in La Vuelta 22 and tighten his grip on La Roja with three days to go to Madrid.

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