Arensman wins queen stage on Sierra Nevada, Evenepoel keeps red jersey

Arensman wins queen stage on Sierra Nevada, Evenepoel keeps red jersey
Arensman wins queen stage on Sierra Nevada, Evenepoel keeps red jersey

Remco Evenepoel has become the ‘mental winner’ of the queen stage in the Vuelta. The leader was put under serious pressure but finished the Sierra Nevada phenomenally strong and goes into the third and final rest day with a lead of 1’34” over Roglic. The day win was for Thymen Arensman who raced past Marc Soler in the last nine kilometers.

How did the victory come about?

There was a race within the race: the race for the stage victory that went to the Dutchman from van DSM, and the race for the overall victory in the Tour of Spain that was a lot more exciting.

First the story about the victory: the Catalan of UAE Team Emirates was the man who attacked the first meters of the Sierra Nevada from a dispersed leading group of 29 riders. That was at 22 km from the finish. It was the signal for Louis Vervaeke to also release from the leading group, which at that time still had a small 3’30” lead over the group of favorites in the overall victory. Thymen Arensman let go but then disbanded his devils at 8.5 kilometers from the finish. One and a half kilometers further he was already at Soler and 300 meters further he was already out of the pipe.

More fascinating was the war for the red in which Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl was tactically smarter than Jumbo-Visma. At 15 km from the finish, Vervaeke delivered hard work for leader Remco Evenepoel on the Sierra Nevada. While Primoz Roglic was already isolated there by a maneuver at the bottom of the foot of the final climb where he thought he was strangle Evenepoel, but actually threw his own teammates overboard.

Among the classification riders, the final was introduced by Tao Geoghegan Hart (number nine in the ranking on Sunday afternoon) who placed a feint at 28 km from the top, but Robert Gesink easily caught him back.

At 25 km from the finish, Jumbo-Visma firmly took control of the race with Dennis and Oomen who had fallen from the leading group. As a result, five ‘wasps’ rode ahead of Evenepoel in the suit of the favorites.

At that time, the leader had two more people around him with Masnada (also already from the leading group) and Van Wilder, but the Italian literally fell before the final climb started.

That all happened after a very solid start of the fifteenth stage. Just like Saturday, the prelude started right after the flag was raised. For example, Rohan Dennis immediately went on the attack in function of Primoz Roglic. Together with Hugh Carthy. Carl Fredrik Hagen, Vojtech Repa, Vincenzo Nibali and Luis Angel Maté also participated. As a result, Jumbo-Visma immediately wanted to put pressure on Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl from Remco Evenepoel, who let the race run its course for the first few hours. After barely fifteen kilometers only Dennis, Nibali and Carthy were left at the front, the three others were driven loose. Then we had to wait for a large group to drive away from the peloton, including Louis Vervaeke and Fausto Masnada (in function of Evenepoel) and Sam Oomen, who fitted in Roglic’s strategic plan.

At the foot of the Puerto del Castillo (third category), 29 riders came in front: the day’s flight had left. Only Lotto-Soudal, Burgos-BH and Equipo Kern Pharma were missing from the leading group. At 78 km from the finish, Lawson Craddock (BikeExchange-Jayco) pulled away from the leading group that did not turn well. At 50 km from the finish, the American was 1’34” ahead and the peloton followed in the first meters of the Alto del Purche at less than 5 minutes, where Mike Teunissen also whipped up the pace for Jumbo-Visma and Robert Gesink very quickly took over. Thus began a war of fifty kilometers long.

Photo: BELGA

What did the favorites do?

Evenepoel lost 15 seconds on Sierra Nevada to Roglic who only moved away from the leading leader for the entire climb with O’Connor on the last kilometer. The winner of the weekend was not Roglic but Enric Mas who took time against the Slovenian on the Sierra Nevada and is now 27 seconds behind the three-time Vuelta winner. Mas actually turned out to be an attacker and went behind arch-rival Miguel Ángel López, who escaped 11 km from the top (see last year’s Vuelta where the Colombian played the penultimate day).

The last twenty kilometers it was man to man between Primoz Roglic, Evenepoel, Lopez, Mas, O’Connor, Rodriguez. Primoz Roglic already wanted to surprise Remco Evenepoel at the foot of the Sierra Nevada and anticipated the failure of his teammate Sam Oomen, but Remco Evenepoel easily parried the attack and at that moment even ostentatiously ride for the Slovenian.

The young Spanish riders paid the toll. Juan Ayuso (5th) soon had to let go in the front and the national champion Carlos Rodriguez (4th) also had to drop out with an intermediate gear from Roglic at 19 km from the top.

Roglic dropped his water bottle at just under 29 km from the finish and went to pick it up himself from the team car. Robert Gesink pushed the pace in the leading group to have his leader rejoin as quickly as possible.

Wilco Kelderman, eighth in the standings on Sunday afternoon, already hit the ground during the first kilometres. The Dutchman grabbed his badly beaten left shoulder for a moment, shook his head in frustration, and then continued with a new bike.

Arensman was among the 29 escapees who drove in front after the first race hour. The Dutchman was in eleventh place on Sunday afternoon at 9’14” from Evenepoel. Seven riders out of the top twenty rode in front. That is why Evenepoel put the French tgv, Rémi Cavagna at the head of the pack. At 70 km from the top the lead was 6’20”. And then AG2R-Citroën started driving to defend Ben O’Connor’s tenth place in the standings. Which shattered Arensman’s dream to move up many places. It was also the first time that Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl received real help from a team.

What did the Belgians do?

Xandro Meurisse was part of the big break and played his part in crossing the first top of the third category. The West Flemish launched Jay Vine who increased his point total to 43. Meurisse himself came in second.

The second compatriot in the front was Louis Vervaeke, just like on Thursday in the stage to Cabo de Gata. The intention was that the East Fleming who had fled to the Ardennes on the Sierra Nevada would then let themselves down.

Ilan Van Wilder had a particularly angry moment on the Alto del Purche 5.5 km from the top. Under the beating of Bob Jungels – who drove for Ben O’Connor who was defending his tenth place – he had to let go, but he did come over the top with Evenepoel’s group.

Tim Merlier had a very difficult day due to the super fast start and already played the accordion with the peloton after just under twenty kilometers.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Arensman wins queen stage Sierra Nevada Evenepoel red jersey

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