Remco Evenepoel rubber-stamped his Vuelta a Espana title on Sunday, safely negotiating the procession into Madrid.

The 22-year-old joins an illustrious list of names from his native Belgium to have won a Grand Tour, albeit his triumph in Spain marks the end of a long drought for the nation.

Evenepoel's success, however, came at the expense of Primoz Roglic's shot at history.

Roglic was hunting an unprecedented fourth straight Vuelta title, and looked set to overtake Evenepoel in the general classification in stage 16, only to suffer a crash 100 metres from the line.

The Slovenian was unable to carry on due to the injuries he sustained and abandoned La Vuelta for the first time in his career. Roglic has had awful luck in recent Grand Tours, having had to abandon three of the last four he has appeared in.

There were 49 withdrawals across this edition of La Vuelta, the highest number since 2013.

But of the riders that did finish, there were plenty of records and statistics to dive into, courtesy of Opta data.

Belgium's long wait is over

Formula One world champion Max Verstappen shrugged off the jeers and boos he received after triumphing at The son of former pro cyclist Patrick Evenepoel, a young Remco actually started his sporting career in football, with one of his old clubs – Dutch giants PSV – among those to offer their congratulations as he became Vuelta champion.

It marks Evenepoel's first Grand Tour crown, in what was his first appearance at La Vuelta. He led the race for a remarkable 16 stages, which is more than any other rider has led it for since two-time champion Chris Froome managed 19 stages in red back in 2017.

Belgium has produced some fantastic riders, not least the great Eddy Merckx, who counts one Vuelta crown among his 11 Grand Tour titles, yet shockingly Evenepoel is the nation's first GT champion since 1978, when Johan de Muynck won the Giro d'Italia.

Evenepoel is the eighth Belgian to win the Vuelta – the first since Freddy Maertens in 1977. Only Spain (32) and France (nine) have produced more Vuelta champions than Belgium (eight).

Out with the old...

Alejandro Valverde won La Vuelta in 2009, but on his farewell appearance at his home Grand Tour, the 42-year-old was never going to compete for top honours.

Instead, this was his goodbye lap, as Valverde completed his 14th Vuelta, matching the record tallies of Federico Etxabe, Chente Garcia Acosta and Inigo Cuesta.

Spain did have a GC contender to cheer on in the form of Movistar's Enric Mas, but after Roglic's crash, he was unable to close the gap on Evenepoel, finishing over two minutes back. No Spaniard has now won it since 2014, which is the longest streak in the race's history without a home champion.

 

Mas has finished second in three of his four Vuelta appearances, and came in ahead of Juan Ayuso, with two Spanish riders finishing in the top three for the first time since 2014, when Valverde joined champion Alberto Contador on the podium.

Ayuso, who contracted COVID-19 early in the race but carried on, is the youngest rider to achieve a podium finish at La Vuelta (19 years and 360 days). Spain's future seems in good hands.

Carapaz caps personal best, Pedersen a rising star

The red jersey was, of course, not the only one up for grabs. Richard Carapaz and Mads Pedersen both finished with three stage victories to their name.

Carapaz became the first cyclist from the Americas to win the mountain classification since Felix Cardenas of Colombia in 2004, while the INEOS Grenadier rider also marked his best effort at a Grand Tour, surpassing the two stage wins he managed at the 2019 Giro d'Italia.

Vuelta debutant Pedersen, meanwhile, became the first Dane to win the points jersey in any Grand Tour.

It has been a brilliant year for Denmark, with Jonas Vingegaard having claimed the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, and Pedersen is among their best riders. Indeed, the only Dane to have won more stages at La Vuelta than the sprinter is Magnus Cort (six), though the latter has made three appearances in the race.

Remco Evenepoel hailed his Vuelta a Espana win as an "historic moment for the team, my country and myself".

The 22-year-old on Sunday became Belgium's first Grand Tour winner since Johan De Muynck took the 1978 Giro d'Italia title.

The Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider safely came through Sunday's 96.7km procession from Las Rozas to the finish in Madrid, which was won by UAE Team Emirates rider Juan Sebastian Molano.

Colombian Molano was the lead-out man, and he claimed his first Vuelta victory ahead of Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and his team-mate Pascal Ackermann.

Evenepoel, who led the Vuelta for 16 stages, longer than any other rider has held the red jersey since Chris Froome in 2017 (19 stages), was joined on the podium by Spaniards Enric Mas and Juan Ayuso, and put the victory down to his team and how they managed three gruelling weeks of racing.

"Yesterday the emotions were quite high because you could feel that we were actually there, but you still have to finish the race here [on stage 21] safe and in a good way," he told reporters.

"I think we did it perfectly. We enjoyed it as much as possible and now we can really enjoy it.

"I didn't have much time to think today because it was a technical course and it was getting more nervous on every lap, so it was not that nice. I'm happy we survived and that we are here now.

"It's an historic moment for the team, for my country and for myself. I think we can be really proud of what we did during the last three weeks."

Mas the nearly man

Mas and Ayuso took second and third, with this year the first time since 2014 that Spain has had two riders finish on the podium.

Movistar leader Mas, who also finished on the podium in the points and mountain classifications, had vowed to push Evenepoel in the wake of Primoz Rolgic's abandonment, but could not quite manage to do so. He has finished second in three of his four Vuelta appearances.

STAGE RESULT 

1. Juan Sebastian Molano (UAE Team Emirates) 02:26:36
2. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) same time 
3. Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates) same time
4. Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma) same time
5. Danny van Poppel (BORA-Hansgrohe) same time

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 80:26:59
2. Enric Mas (Movistar) +2:02
3. Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) +4:57

Points Classification

1. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) 409
2. Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) 186
3. Enric Mas (Movistar) 138

King of the Mountains

1. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) 73
2. Robert Stannard (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 36
3. Enric Mas (Movistar) 28

Remco Evenepoel said it felt "amazing" to effectively clinch Vuelta a Espana general classification glory and answer his critics in style.

The 22-year-old will be garlanded on Sunday as Belgium's first Grand Tour winner since Johan De Muynck took the 1978 Giro d'Italia title.

The Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider safely navigated Saturday's 181-kilometre stage from Moralzarzal to Puerto de Navacerrada, considered the last serious test for the riders.

On Sunday, it will be an essentially processional 96.7km ride from Las Rozas to the finish in Madrid, with a sprint in store once the riders reach the capital.

Richard Carapaz won Saturday's stage, his third victory of the 2022 edition of La Vuelta, attacking decisively as the summit of the Puerto de Cotos closing ascent approached. He has taken King of the Mountains honours too, in a highly successful Vuelta performance.

Evenepoel crossed the line in sixth place, with his overall lead of two minutes and five seconds over Enric Mas meaning he can prepare to stand on top of the podium at the Plaza de Cibeles on Sunday.

"I don't know what going through my head and my body right now, but it's amazing," Evenepoel said, after crying tears of happiness.

Evenepoel faced criticism during and after the World Championships last year, when he questioned Belgium's race tactics and suggested he might have won a gold medal if the team had chosen him as a leader.

Wout van Aert and Jasper Stuyven were the leaders instead and Belgium finished empty-handed, but on Sunday the country will have a confirmed Grand Tour champion.

"All the bad comments I got from last year, I think I answered everybody with my pedals," Evenepoel said on Eurosport. "I've been working so hard to come here in the best shape possible, and to now win this Vuelta is amazing."

He said the victory was "for Belgium, for my team-mates, for my parents, for my fiancee", adding: "I was really stressed this morning. I didn't sleep too much last night because you just know what's coming to you, and it was a super tough stage, but I'm just super happy that I won La Vuelta.

"I didn't even think about winning a stage. I just wanted to win the general classification. It's an amazing year. It's the best year I can imagine and wish for."

Carapaz at the summit

INEOS Grenadiers' Carapaz has enjoyed a superb Vuelta. He is one of only two riders, along with Mads Pedersen, to win three stages at this year's race, doubling his career total of Grand Tour stage wins, while the Ecuadorian is the first South American to win the mountains classification at La Vuelta since 2004.

STAGE RESULT 

1. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) 04:41:34
2. Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) +0:08 
3. Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) +0:13
4. Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) same time
5. Enric Mas (Movistar) same time

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 78:00:12
2. Enric Mas (Movistar) +2:05
3. Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) +5:08

Points Classification

1. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) 379
2. Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) 174
3. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 133

King of the Mountains

1. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) 73
2. Robert Stannard (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 36
3. Enric Mas (Movistar) 28

Primoz Roglic has blamed Fred Wright for causing the crash that led to his withdrawal from the Vuelta a Espana, labelling the incident "unacceptable".

Roglic was sent sprawling after touching wheels with Wright with just 150 metres remaining at the end of a dramatic stage 16 on Tuesday, and withdrew from the race the following day.

Three-time reigning champion Roglic had been second in the overall standings, and his withdrawal leaves Remco Evenepoel as the overwhelming favourite to clinch victory when the race concludes in Madrid on Sunday.

Speaking to Jumbo-Visma's team website on Friday, Roglic expressed his displeasure at the way his race ended and singled out Wright for blame.

"I can walk a little bit. I am happy with that for the moment," Roglic said. "After the crash, it took me time to straighten things out. I asked myself, 'how can this be?'

"My conclusion is that the way this crash happened is unacceptable. Not everyone saw it correctly. The crash was not caused by a bad road or a lack of safety but by a rider's behaviour.

"I don't have eyes on my back. Otherwise, I would have run wide. Wright came from behind and rode the handlebars out of my hands before I knew it."

Jumbo-Visma director Richard Plugge was equally unhappy with Wright's behaviour, adding: "Ten years ago, the older riders were sounding the alarm because the younger ones showed less respect, took irresponsible risks, and pushed their way through everything. 

"The younger ones of yesteryear are the older riders of today. But you still hear the same discussion, even though we are a generation ahead. So that has to change. 

"I'm glad that Primoz is speaking out, looking in the mirror and naming the behaviour of riders as well."

Bahrain Victorious rider Wright is second in the Points Classification standings, but is some 205 points adrift of Mads Pedersen after losing out to the Dane across Friday's 19th stage.

Roglic's withdrawal marks his latest setback during a difficult year. He was forced to leave the Tour de France ahead of the final rest day after suffering injuries sustained in a crash with a stray hay bale on stage five in July.

Mads Pedersen brought up a hat-trick of stage wins across the 2022 Vuelta a Espana, claiming stage 19 with a powerful sprint in Talavera de la Reina.

Pedersen, who was also victorious over stages 13 and 16, saw off challenges from Fred Wright and Gianni Vermeersch over a 138.3-kilometre stretch on Friday, adding to his lead in the Points Classification.

Remco Evenepoel, meanwhile, retained La Roja and is closing in on an overall victory after a long downhill ride to the line prevented any challengers from gaining time on the race leader.

Brandon McNulty, Jonathan Caicedo and Ander Okamika led a three-man breakaway at the outset of the twin-mountain stage, comprising two laps of a circuit containing the Puerto del Pielago climb, but they were hauled back with 49 kilometres remaining.

Pedersen's Trek-Segafredo team then fended off several attacks as the stage built towards a bunch sprint, in which Pedersen turned on the style to beat Wright to another important triumph. 

"It was definitely really hard to control the bunch today but man, the team did so impressive. Everybody was so dedicated and working really hard," Pedersen said after crossing the line.

"It's never easy in a final like this, it's a lot of good guys in the peloton in the end. I was really happy with the speed the boys could keep at the end. 

"Three wins is of course super, super nice. Tomorrow we have to finish the day and then in Madrid we'll see how it goes. But I think no matter what, we can be really happy with these three weeks in Spain."

Pedersen secures treble

As well as extending his commanding lead in the Points Classification standings, Pedersen's win made him the first rider to bring up three stage victories in this year's race. The Dane moves clear of Sam Bennett, Jay Vine, Evenepoel and Richard Carapaz, who have two wins apiece this year.

Pedersen had managed just one stage victory at Grand Tours ahead of the Vuelta, taking stage 13 at the Tour de France in July.

STAGE RESULT 

1. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) 3:19:11
2. Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) same time
3. Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Deceuninck) same time
4. Ben Turner (INEOS Grenadiers) same time
5. Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma) same time

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 73:18:23
2. Enric Mas (Movistar) +2:07
3. Juan Ayuso Pesquera (UAE Team Emirates) +5:14

Points Classification

1. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) 379
2. Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) 174
3. Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) 133

King of the Mountains

1. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) 50
2. Enric Mas (Movistar) 26
3. Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) 23

Remco Evenepoel narrowly extended his lead at the top of the General Classification after a Stage 18 victory on the Vuelta a Espana, having been towed by rival Enric Mas.

The pair overtook Robert Gesink in the final 500 metres, with Evenepoel surging ahead of Mas to clinch the bonus seconds that led to his overall triumph looking to be a formality.

Gesink appeared to be closing in on a win that would have provided a welcome boost to his Jumbo-Visma team following the withdrawal of leader Primoz Roglic earlier this week, but was cruelly denied by Evenepoel.

With three stages remaining, the Belgian boasts a lead of two minutes and seven seconds, a maiden Grand Tour title set to go his way this weekend with sights set on Sunday's finale in Madrid.

The provisional podium ahead of the finale has Juan Ayuso Pesquera in third, sitting five minutes and 14 seconds off the lead and having a 42 second advantage over fourth-placed Miguel Angel Lopez.

Rodriguez, involved in a crash earlier in the race, was paced home by team-mate Richard Carapaz after the Ecuadorian was caught in the final climb and denied a third stage win.

Vine abandons after Pedersen crash

The battle for the polka dot jersey was blown wide open on Thursday following a crash that led runaway leader Jay Vine to retire, the Australian having taken two summit wins earlier in the race.

A big incident with 171 kilometres remaining of Stage 18 saw Mads Pedersen, with the green jersey, and podium hopeful Carlos Rodriguez also involved, but it was Vine who suffered the biggest blow.

Vine's exit elevates Richard Carapaz to the lead, the Ecuadorian also clinching two summit wins in 2022.

STAGE RESULT

1. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 4:45:17
2. Enric Mas (Movistar) +0:02
3. Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma) +0:02
4. Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) +0:13
5. Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) +0:13

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 69:59:12
2. Enric Mas (Movistar) +2:07
3. Juan Ayuso Pesquera (UAE Team Emirates) +5:14

Points Classification

1. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) 349
2. Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) 149
3. Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) 133

King of the Mountains

1. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) 45
2. Enric Mas (Movistar) 25
3. Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) 23

Primoz Roglic's withdrawal from the Vuelta a Espana is a huge disappointment for Enric Mas, as he aims to chase down Remco Evenepoel in the final stages of the race.

Three-time reigning champion Roglic crashed just before the line on Tuesday, having looked set to take the lead off Evenepoel, who has now held the red jersey for 12 stages of this year's event.

Roglic's chances of an unprecedented fourth straight Vuelta title are now over after the Slovenian elected to withdraw from the race, leaving Mas as Evenepoel's closest rival.

Yet the Spaniard was unable to close the gap on Wednesday as Evenepoel and his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team managed the red jersey group, with both riders collecting the same time after a 162-kilometre route from Aracena to Monasterio de Tentudia.

Rigoberto Uran claimed a breakaway win, sealing his first individual success at La Vuelta, meaning the 35-year-old has now won a stage at each of the Grand Tours.

Jesus Herrada led until just before the finish, with Uran timing his final attack to perfection to hold off Quentin Pacher and become the fourth different Colombian rider to win a stage at La Vuelta since the start of the 2019 edition.

Mas had to settle for 15th, one place behind Evenepoel, and knows his Movistar team will have to come up with something special to topple the Belgian in the race's final days.

"We go day by day, I think every day is super important. Yesterday you all saw the crash of Primoz. We need to be very focused," Mas said. "It's not nice when somebody crashes. He's a super rider, a super good person. I think it's s*** that Roglic is not here anymore.

"I don't know what we're going to do tomorrow, but if we have good legs and a good feeling, and the atmosphere in the team is super good, we have to do something, no?"

Evenepoel betters Merckx 

He may hold a lead of over two minutes, but Evenepoel is not taking anything for granted, and delivered an expertly controlled ride to keep his rivals at bay.

"Pretty tough, it was not easy at all. Especially the run-in was really nervous and also a big road going quite steep. It looked easier on television than it was in real life," he said.

Evenepoel is the first rider to lead La Vuelta for 12 consecutive stages since 2019, when Roglic led for the final 12. The 22-year-old has now overtaken the great Eddy Merckx as fourth on the list of Belgians with the most days leading the race, after Gustaaf Deloor (32), Freddy Maertens (22) and Rick van Looy (13).

STAGE RESULT

1. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education–EasyPost) 3:42:28
2. Quentin Pacher (Groupama-FDJ) same time
3. Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) +0:02
4. Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) +0:15
5. Kelly Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo) +0:26

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 65:14:05
2. Enric Mas (Movistar) +2:01
3. Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) +4:51

Points Classification

1. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) 349
2. Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) 149
3. Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) 133

King of the Mountains

1. Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 59
2. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Greandiers) 30
3. Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) 22

Three-time Vuelta a Espana winner Primoz Roglic has withdrawn from this year's race following a crash at the end of stage 16 on Tuesday.

The Slovenian went down just 150 metres from the finish after seemingly clashing handlebars with Britain's Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious).

Roglic had been second in the general classification, behind Remco Evenepoel, and his withdrawal leaves the Belgian with a two minute and one second lead over Enric Mas, who moves up a spot from third.

In a tweet, Roglic's team, Jumbo-Visma, stated: "Unfortunately, Primoz Roglic will not be at the start of Stage 17 as a consequence of yesterday's crash.

"Get well soon, champion! Thank you for all the beautiful moments in this Vuelta. You had ambitious plans for the final days, but sadly it isn't meant to be."

The withdrawal continues a difficult year for Roglic, who was forced to leave the Tour de France ahead of the final rest day after suffering injuries sustained in a crash with a stray hay bale on stage five.

The 2022 Vuelta a Espana concludes in Madrid on Sunday.

 #LaVuelta22

Unfortunately, @rogla will not be at the start of stage 17 as a consequence of yesterday’s crash.

Get well soon, champion! Thank you for all the beautiful moments in this Vuelta. You had ambitious plans for the final days, but sadly it isn’t meant to be. pic.twitter.com/C3Vnc8P9EO

— Team Jumbo-Visma cycling (@JumboVismaRoad) September 7, 2022

Mads Pedersen collected his second stage win of this year's Vuelta a Espana but there was plenty of drama in a frantic finish in Tomares.

Three-time reigning champion Primoz Roglic looked set to gain huge ground on leader Remco Evenepoel when he attacked in the final kilometres.

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team positioned themselves at the front with 10km remaining of Tuesday's 188km flat stage from Sanlucar de Barrameda in Andalucia.

Yet it was Roglic's Jumbo-Visma who ended up better placed to launch an attack in the final sprint and that proved to be the case when the Slovenian opened up a gab with just under 3km remaining.

Pedersen and Pascal Ackermann followed hot on Roglic's tail while Evenepoel's frustration was compounded by a puncture, but there was more drama to come.

Danny van Poppel and Fred Wright had joined the lead group, and it was the latter who played a pivotal role in an incident that might well ensure Evenepoel wins his maiden Grand Tour title.

With just 100 metres remaining, Roglic made way for the powerful Pedersen and, as he moved back in, clipped Wright at the rear of the group, landing hard onto the road.

He was able to finish the race with the help of his team but looked in huge distress, with a nasty gash to his right knee. Evenepoel finished over three minutes further back. However, though there was initial confusion as to whether the 3km rule was in place, he ultimately lost only eight seconds to his rival.

Evenepoel, who has now led the race for 11 days, headed straight for Roglic at the finish line, and told reporters: "I heard that Primoz crashed, so I really hope he's okay and that he can continue the race.

"We all know that Primoz is explosive so a final like this is really made for him. That makes it even more of a pity for him that he crashed. You never want somebody to crash – I hope he's okay."

Evenepoel and Roglic benefited from the 3km rule, which is in place to ensure that if a rider suffers a fall, puncture or mechanical incident in the last 3km, they are credited with the same finishing time of the rider or riders they were with at the time of the incident.

Two up for Pedersen but Roglic's history hopes could be over

You can take nothing away from Pedersen, who admitted he was caught off guard by Roglic's brilliantly timed attack – one that would almost certainly have seen the Jumbo-Visma leader take the red jersey had it not been for that crash, which might have well dashed the 32-year-old's hopes of an unprecedented fourth successive Vuelta crown.

"It was a really smart move [from Roglic]. Everyone was really on the limit," Pedersen said. "I didn't hear it. I wanted to go to him here and I saw he was with destroyed clothing. It's a pity that he crashed. He hasn't been lucky this year. I hope it isn't too bad so he can continue competing for the victory of the Vuelta."

Points leader Pedersen is the first Trek-Segafredo rider to win two stages in the same edition of La Vuelta since Alberto Contador in 2017, and is the third competitor to win multiple stages at this year's race, after Sam Bennett and Richard Carapaz (both two).

STAGE RESULT

1. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) 4:45:29
2. Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates) same time
3. Danny van Poppel (BORA-Hansgrohe) same time
4. Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) same time
5. Quentin Pacher (Groupama-FDJ) +0:08

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 61:26:26
2. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) +1:26
3. Enric Mas (Movistar) +2:01

Points Classification

1. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) 349
2. Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) 129
3. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 107

King of the Mountains

1. Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 59
2. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Greandiers) 30
3. Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) 22

Overall leader at the Vuelta a Espana, Remco Evenepoel, discussed the chess match between those vying for the general classification (GC) title as he holds the lead through 15 stages.

On Sunday for the 15th stage, Belgium's Evenepoel finished 10th, 11 seconds behind his top GC rival Slovenian Primoz Roglic, while Spain's Enric Mas also cut into the lead. 

Evenepoel will carry the red jersey and a one-minute-34-second lead into the 16th stage on Tuesday, and when speaking to the media he dove into the strategy of a grand tour (GT).

"Roglic and Mas are both going very well," he said. "Roglic was the strongest of all the GC guys on Saturday, Mas was very strong [on Sunday]. 

"When Mas attacked I also knew I was still quite a bit ahead of him in the GC so I didn’t want to go above my own limits, because we were already above 2000m of altitude and what we saw is they attacked, took a gap but then me keeping up my own pace didn’t really allow them to ride away. 

"I was a bit scared to go above my limits, so I kept pushing my own power, and I think on such a hard stage the time loss was quite limited. 

"It’s now the third week, the guy with the best legs will probably be the best in the mountain stages, but the Vuelta is far from over."

With six stages remaining, Evenepoel has a chance to become the first Belgian winner of a GT since 1978, but he says he does not feel pressured to finish the job because he did not expect to be in this position.

"I know that I can be the first winner of a GT for Belgium in a long time, but we’ve still got six days to go so I don’t want to call myself that already," he said.

"For the head it’s best to just try to stay calm and look at the races day by day, see what everyday brings. As we saw last week, a crash happens before you even know it. 

"We had two big passes, unfortunately Julian had to abandon the race, I was okay but there was still some damage to my hip and muscles, so that’s why we have to see day by day. 

"Never panic, even if I lose a bit of time, because if I’d have known I was in this situation before the Vuelta, I would have signed up for it, so everything that happens now is extra.

"A stage win and a top 10, top five, would be my big dream. I think we’re on the road to that."

Thymen Arensman climbed to his first Grand Tour stage win on the Hoya de la Mora as Remco Evenepoel retained the Vuelta a Espana lead on a gruelling Sunday.

Arensman powered his way up to the highest summit of La Vuelta to claim a brilliant victory on a lung-busting stage 15.

It was only a second professional stage win for the Team DSM rider and the biggest of his career, with the Dutchman powering up the road in the Sierra Nevada mountains to cross the line a minute and 23 seconds before Enric Mas.

Miguel Angel Lopez and Jay Vine finished third and fourth respectively, ahead of defending champion Primoz Roglic who was able to chip a further 15 seconds off Evenepoel's advantage courtesy of a late attack.

Evenepoel will start the final week in La Roja following a rest day on Monday, after the Belgian finished what was billed as the 'queen stage' in 10th place on the road.

A strong ride from Mas left him just over two minutes adrift of race leader Evenepoel in the general classification standings.

Jay Vine kept the polka dot jersey in the battle to be crowned king of the mountains in a brutal 153-kilometre route that started in Martos.

Arensman the king of the Sierra Nevada

Arensman reeled in Marc Soler with 7km to go and had enough in the tank to go solo for the victory.

Spaniard Soler had gone on his own from a breakaway group of 12 riders, taking on the challenge at the front up the steepest section of the Alto de Hazallanas, and opened up a lead of around 40 seconds.

He was unable to see it through, though, as Arensman passed him and the 22-year-old stage winner looked in disbelief as he crossed the finishing line.


STAGE RESULT

1. Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) 4:17:17
2. Enric Mas (Movistar) +1:23
3. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) +1:25
4. Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) +1:30
5. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) +1:44

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 56:40:49
2. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) +1:34
3. Enric Mas (Movistar) +2:01

Points Classification

1. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) 284
2. Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) 111
3. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 107

King of the Mountains

1. Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 59
2. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Greandiers) 30
3. Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) 22

Remco Evenepoel's lead at the Vuelta a Espana was cut on Saturday as reigning champion Primoz Roglic launched a late attack.

Roglic, who is hunting an unprecedented fourth consecutive Vuelta title, had been two minutes and 41 seconds behind Evenepoel heading into stage 14.

Yet with an attack up the final climb of Sierre de La Pandera, at the culmination of a 160-kilometre route, the Slovenian reduced the Belgian's advantage by almost a minute.

Eveneopel stays the favourite with seven stages remaining, but Roglic offered a timely reminder of his power heading into the final week.

It was not all doom and gloom for Evenepoel, who recovered to finish eighth and at least limit his losses.

"It wasn't my best day for sure, I didn't have the best legs, I couldn't accelerate when Roglic went," Evenepoel said.

"I'm still 1:49 ahead in GC, so nothing to really to panic about. I'll try to recover as much as possible and survive tomorrow."

Roglic came third, finishing behind two South Americans in the form of Miguel Angel Lopez and Richard Carapaz, who claimed his second stage win of this year's race.

The INEOS Grenadiers rider held on after being part of a 10-man breakaway, with his climbing prowess coming to the fore.

Carapaz the king of this mountain

Carapaz is the sixth rider to achieve a stage victory ending on La Pandera in La Vuelta, though the first from the Americas. The Ecuadorian is the second rider to have won two stages at this year's race, after Sam Bennett.

With five Grand Tour stage wins to his name, the 29-year-old is top of the charts among South American riders in that regard, too.

STAGE RESULT

1. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Greandiers) 4:09:27
2. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Qazaqstan Team) +0:08
3. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) same time
4. Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) +0:27
5. Carlos Rodriguez (INEOS Greandiers) +0:36

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 52:21:33
2. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) +1:49
3. Enric Mas (Movistar) +2:43

Points Classification

1. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) 267
2. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 96
3. Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) 96

King of the Mountains

1. Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 40
2. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Greandiers) 26
3. Robert Stannard (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 21

Remco Evenepoel kept his Vuelta a Espana lead firmly intact despite Primoz Roglic's efforts, as Mads Pedersen sprinted to victory on Friday.

Evenepoel had suffered a fall on Thursday but kept safely in the peloton in stage 13 to ensure history hunting Roglic – who crossed over the line in ninth on the uphill finish in Montilla – did not make a dent into his general classification lead.

A bunch sprint for the line was won by Pedersen, who recorded the first Vuelta stage win of his career, following on from a maiden individual success at the Tour de France earlier this year.

Pedersen, who already held the green points jersey, had to react sharply to an attack from Pascal Ackermann in the last 500 metres, but the Dane had too much power and had time to celebrate as he crossed.

Along with Kaden Groves and Bryan Coquard, Pedersen had previously reeled in a three-man breakaway of Julius van den Berg, Ander Okamika and Joan Bou.

Coquard had enough to overtake Ackermann, who just about held onto third place ahead of Fred Wright.

"It's super nice," Trek-Segafredo rider Pedersen told reporters after ensuring a Dane has won at least one stage at La Vuelta for four consecutive editions of the Grand Tour.

"We came here for a stage win and now we have won. We'll keep fighting to get one more.

"It's nice with a comfortable lead in the points jersey. We keep fighting for the stages and we'll see how it goes."

Evenepoel, meanwhile, has now held the red jersey for eight successive stages, the longest such streak for a Belgian at La Vuelta since Ferdi Van den Haute in 1978 (10 stages).

COVID not stopping Ayuso

A raft of positive COVID-19 cases have disrupted this year's race, but one rider who is able to carry on is Juan Ayuso.

The UAE Team Emirates youngster - who sits an impressive fifth returned a positive test result ahead of Friday's stage, and team doctor Adrian Rotunno confirmed the 19-year-old is fine to continue.

"As per our internal protocols Juan Ayuso was tested for COVID-19 and returned a positive result this morning. He is asymptomatic and analysing his PCR found he had a very low risk of infectivity, similar to cases such as we saw at this year's Tour de France," Rotunno confirmed to the media.

STAGE RESULT

1. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) 3:46:01
2. Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) same time
3. Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates) same time
4. Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) same time
5. Danny van Poppel (BORA-Hansgrohe) same time

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 48:11:10
2. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) +2:41
3. Enric Mas (Movistar) +3:03

Points Classification

1. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) 247
2. Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) 96
3. Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) 96

King of the Mountains

1. Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 40
2. Robert Stannard (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 21
3. Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) 20

Remco Evenepoel said his bike bore the brunt of the crash that gave the Vuelta a Espana leader a scare, as Richard Carapaz scored an eye-catching stage 12 victory.

The 192.7-kilometre ride from Salobrena to Estepona took the riders through the province of Malaga, and with just over 45km remaining there was a jolt for general classification front-runner Evenepoel when the Belgian took a chance on a corner.

Looking to take an inside line, Evenepoel's calculation failed to pay off as his wheels slipped, leaving him grounded and shaken momentarily, with his right leg having scraped on the road.

He was soon back in the race and finished strongly, preserving his lead of two minutes and 41 seconds over three-time reigning champion Primoz Roglic in the GC standings.

Asked about any after-effects, Evenepoel said on Eurosport: "Just my leg, but it's fine I think. My bike is much worse than myself.

"It was a super slippery corner. The motorbikes were slipping as well, and slowing down, so that's why I actually wanted to cut the corner, but it was a bit too much.

"Sorry for my words, but s*** happens. Now I'm just going to heal the wounds and try to recover for tomorrow as it will be a sprint stage."

It was largely flat on Thursday, until the steep ascent of Penas Blancas in the closing kilometres proved an arduous test of the riders' legs.

Carapaz, part of a breakaway that splintered as the race and the climb progressed, made his move with 2km remaining and surged clear to finish nine seconds ahead of Wilco Kelderman, with Marc Soler in third. Jay Vine, expected to make a push for the win, could only finish seventh.

Carapaz makes his presence felt

Three years on from winning the Giro d'Italia, this was Carapaz's first stage win of his Vuelta career. He has been the man in the red jersey before, eventually ceding it to finish runner-up to Roglic in 2020, but has not shown that level of consistent performance this year.

His dart to victory up the mountain was mightily impressive, though, serving as a reminder of the 29-year-old's great talent.

STAGE RESULT

1. Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) 4:38:26
2. Wilco Kelderman (BORA-Hansgrohe), +0:09
3. Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates), +0:24
4. Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates), +0:26
5. Marco Brenner (Team DSM), +0:34

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 44:25:09
2. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) +2:41
3. Enric Mas (Movistar) +3:03

Points Classification

1. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) 184
2. Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) 96
3. Samuele Battistella (Astana) 87

King of the Mountains

1. Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 40
2. Robert Stannard (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 21
3. Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) 20

Team-BikeExchange-Jayco leader Simon Yates was forced to withdraw from the Vuelta a Espana due to COVID-19, though team-mate Kaden Groves took the stage 11 win on Wednesday.

The 2018 Vuelta winner Yates was in fifth place after the first 10 stages of this year's race but has had to pull out, just as he did in the Giro d'Italia earlier this year due to a knee injury.

Ninth-placed Ineos Grenadiers rider Pavel Sivakov was also required to withdraw after returning a positive coronavirus test.

Groves put a positive spin on the day for Yates' team, though, securing the win in Cabo de Gata after seeing off competition in a bunch sprint, finishing ahead of Danny van Poppel of Bora-Hansgrohe and Tim Merlier of Alpecin-Deceuninck.

"It feels fantastic," Groves said. "This morning with the news of Simon going positive for COVID-19, all the boys were disappointed. It's the best way to bounce back after such bad news."

The 23-year-old became the first BikeExchange rider to win a La Vuelta stage since Yates in 2018.

Elsewhere, world road champion Julian Alaphilippe's competition is over after he was taken to hospital with a suspected broken collarbone following a crash.

It leaves Alaphilippe's defence of his title at next month's World Championships in Wollongong in doubt.

Evenepoel maintains gap at the top

Remco Evenepoel is the first under-23 rider to lead La Vuelta for six or more stages since Dietrich Thurau in 1976 (six).

The gap to the lead remained unchanged as none of the frontrunners in the general classification troubled the stage leaders on Wednesday.

STAGE RESULT

1. Kaden Groves (BikeExchange-Jayco) 5:03:14
2. Danny van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe) same time
3. Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Deceuninck) same time
4. Juan Sebastian Molano (UAE Team Emirates) same time
5. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) same time

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 39:39:04
2. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) +2:41
3. Enric Mas (Movistar) +3:03

Points Classification

1. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) 184
2. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 85
3. Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) 81

King of the Mountains

1. Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 40
2. Robert Stannard (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 21
3. Jimmy Janssens (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 17

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