Another massive day of climbing on the roads of La Vuelta 23 led to another huge offensive by Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step). The Belgian star made the early breakaway and went first over the four first ascents of the day until he powered to the solo victory atop the Puerto de La Cruz de Linares, after 179km gruelling kilometres on stage 18. Evenepoel takes his 5th stage win in La Vuelta, the third this year, and he all but secures the polka-dot jersey as he only needs to reach Madrid without incidents to win the KOM competition. Among the GC contenders, Jumbo-Visma controlled the attacks and Sepp Kuss retained La Roja.
More climbing in the Asturias! On the day after the iconic Angliru, the peloton of La Vuelta face an unprecedented summit finish at La Cruz de Linares at the end of a day packed with climbing.
Evenepoel secures the polka dots
Attackers set off from the gun. After 18km of battle, Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step), Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious), Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ), Nico Denz (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jarrad Drizners, Andreas Kron (Lotto Dstny), Andrea Piccolo (EF Education-EasyPost), Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Max Poole (DSM-Firmenich), Hugo Hofstetter (Arkéa Samsic) and Paul Ourselin (Total Energies) join Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), Julien Bernard (Lidl-Trek) and Lorenzo Germani (Groupama-FDJ) at the front.
The gap quickly increases, up to 10’20’’ on the first slopes of the cat-1 Puerto de San Lorenzo (9.9km at 8.6%). Remco Evenepoel leads the way to the summit and all but seals the KOM competition. He needs to reach Madrid without incidents in order to become the second Belgian to win the polka-dot jersey in the history of La Vuelta, after Thomas De Gendt in 2018.
Evenepoel leads, Vingegaard helps
Evenepoel ups the ante on the short but steep Alto de Tenebredo (3.4km at 9.5%). Only Caruso, Poole, Kron, Ourselin and Bernal manage to follow him on these slopes. Piccolo and Bernard get back on the downhill. At the summit, the gap to the bunch is up to 11’40’’.
On the first ascent of the Puerto de La Cruz de Linares (8.3km at 8.6% with slopes up to 16%), Evenepoel, Caruso and Poole quickly drop their breakaway rivals. And the Belgian champion goes solo with 4km to go to the summit and 29km to the finish. As they cross the line for the first time, Poole trails by 1’35’’ and Caruso by 1’50’’.
Among the GC contenders, Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) attacks twice inside the final 5 kilometres. Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) also moves under the 1-km-to-go banner. But Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) controls for Sepp Kuss, who retains La Roja.