On the day after he lost his hopes of winning La Vuelta 23, Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) showed his mental and physical strength with a victory atop the unprecedented ascent of Larra-Belagua. The Belgian star attacked again and again, until a strong break got away. He then accelerated atop the Col de la Hourcère, and only Romain Bardet (DSM-Firmenich) could follow him. The two men collaborated over the mighty Puerto de Larrau and Evenepoel eventually dropped the French climber with 4 kilometres to go to power to the solo victory on day 14. He takes his fourth stage win on the roads of La Vuelta. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) retained La Roja as the GC contenders finished together.
After a historic day leading to the Col du Tourmalet, the peloton of La Vuelta 23 face more climbing in the Pyrenees, with the mighty Col de la Hourcère and Puerto de Larrau and an unprecedented summit finish at Larra-Belagua, right on the border between France and Spain.
Evenepoel makes the break
The ascents of the day inspire attackers, especially Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) who attacks again and again on the day after he lost more than 27 minutes and his options in the overall standings.
After some 40 kilometres of battle, the Belgian star eventually manages to make the break. 23 riders join him at the front, including La Vuelta 23 stage winners - Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) - and stage hunters such as Romain Bardet (DSM-Firmenich), Michael Storer (Groupama-FDJ), Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious), Juan Pedro Lopez (Lidl-Trek)…
Evenepoel and Bardet on the move
The attackers cover 51.2km in the first hour to open a gap of 4’30’’ to the bunch. Evenepoel enjoys the support of Mattia Cattaneo to try and build a bigger gap on the slopes up Col de la Hourcère (11.1km at 8.8%). But UAE Team Emirates set a strong pace on the ascent. Evenepoel goes first over the top (km 65.2) and accelerates with Bardet. The peloton trail by 3’20’’.
The two leaders push their advantage on the way to the second ascent of the day, the mighty Puerto de Larrau (14.9km at 8.0% with a maximum gradient of 16%). At the bottom, their chasers trail by 50’’ and the peloton by 4’15’’.
Evenepoel on his own
Evenepoel and Bardet collaborate on the ascent. Storer sets off in pursuit. At the summit, Evenepoel all but secures the polka-dot jersey at the end of the stage. Storer trails by 2’, Jonathan Castroviejo (Ineos Grenadiers) and Lennert Van Eetvelt (Lotto Dstny) by 3’15’’ and the bunch by 6 minutes.
The two leaders start the final climb (9.5km at 6.3%) with a gap of 4’45’’ to a chase trio, and 8’20’’ to the GC group. Evenepoel drops Bardet with 4km to go and takes the solo win with a gap of 1’12’’. The GC contenders finish together and Sepp Kuss takes a 7th La Roja.