- - Vuelta a España 2023 Stage 14

Vuelta a España 2023 Stage 14

photo credits @ La Vuelta

Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) redeemed himself with a stellar victory in stage 14 of the Vuelta a España today, after the Belgian cracked during yesterday’s mountainous stage, dropping Romain Bardet (Team dsm-firmenich) along today’s summit finish to claim the day’s honors.

In the meantime, the GC group rode hard on the final climb, with Bahrain Victorious setting the pace. However, they finished together, 8:21 down on Evenepoel, while Sepp Kuss, Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard celebrate a good day of control with fist pumps. Kuss kept his lead and is 1:37 ahead of Roglič, with Vingegaard at 1:44. Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) is the best of the rest at 2:37.

After working hard to get in the large breakaway then went in the first hour of the stage, Evenepoel and Bardet attacked over the top of the first climb to go away together more than 80km from the finish, and were never even in much danger of being brought back.

The main GC group came in eight and half minutes down on Evenepoel, with all the favourites finishing on the same time after a tame finale for the main contenders. Kuss finished safely in the group to remain in the race lead.

“Yesterday was a very difficult day, also the evening,” Evenepoel said after being in tears at the finish. “I couldn’t sleep too much, I had a very bad night, a lot of negative thoughts in my head. Today I woke up and I thought to myself ‘just go for it, make the best of it’.

“I did a recon of this stage because it’s an important stage for the GC and in the overall, it’s a super hard stage, so I did a recon of it and I knew perfectly how the climbs were, how hard they were because it was a super tough stage. It’s just super nice to take a second stage win.”

“Romain was cooperating with me, we worked well together,” he continued. “I said that I was going to do the pace on the climbs as long as he was going to ride with me on the flats, and in the end it was a bit of a guess whether he could stay on the wheel or not, but I think I can be very proud with this answer after yesterday.”

Race Highlights

Evenepoel came to the fore at the outset of today’s stage, spending several kilometers up the road with Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) before the duo was reeled back in. 

A large group of 24 riders eventually rode clear of the peloton after 30km, with Evenepoel amongst them.

On the first climb, the Col Hourcère, several riders already started to struggle in the peloton, including Geraint Thomas, Egan Bernal (both Ineos Grenadiers), Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) and Wilco Kelderman (Jumbo-Visma).

In the break, it was Mattia Cattaneo (Soudal Quick-Step) who was setting the pace on the climb, and it wasn’t just plain sailing in the lead group: the teams interested in the stage win were making it hard for the weaker riders. On the descent, Evenepoel and Bardet pushed the speed, and managed to split away from their breakaway companions with 80km to go, which quickly grew out to a 50 second advantage with no clear rider to take on the responsibility of chasing in the second group.

By the bottom of the next climb, with 60km to go, the two leaders had a minute and a half advantage, whilst the remaining breakaway started to fall apart behind them. Michael Storer (Groupama-FDJ) was the strongest behind, and closed the gap to 1:10 to the leaders.

Back in the peloton, UAE Team Emirates was busy with much of the pace setting duties, with Juan Ayuso later attacking 6 kilometers from the summit of the Puerto de Larrau, but the Spaniard couldn’t get away from the Dutch team’s strong trio and all remained together over the top of the climb.

On the descent and in the run-in towards the final stretch of climbing, Storer faded and soon dropped to over three and a half minutes behind the leaders, who looked to be riding towards stage victory, six minutes ahead of the GC group with 28km to go. This gap only went out as the finish approached, with the leading pair pushing hard whilst the peloton just kept things controlled, under the influence of Jumbo-Visma and Bahrain Victorious.

With 9km to go, the leaders hit the official start of the final climb, the Puerto de Belagua, and stayed together for the first half of the climb, but it seemed to be winding up for one of the riders to attack. That rider, perhaps predictably, was Evenepoel, who accelerated away from Bardet with 3.9km to go to leave the Frenchman behind, and sail towards victory. Bardet came home in second, while Lennert Van Eetvelt took third as the remnants of the early breakaway crossed the line a few minutes ahead of the peloton.

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