photo credits @ La Vuelta
Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) claimed victory in stage 20 of the Vuelta a España today, after the Dutch rider fended-off Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) in a reduced bunch sprint to seize the day’s honors with a well-timed bike throw on the line in Guadarrama.
Poels was the first to attack what remained of the day’s breakaway group, quickly jettisoning the four remaining escapees before heading into the final corner. Evenepoel chased in earnest, but the Bahrain Victorious rider managed to hold on just at line, with Pelayo Sánchez (Burgos-BH) rounding out the podium, followed by Lennert Van Eetvelt (Lotto Dstny) and Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates).
Earlier, Poels and Van Eetvelt proved to be the strongest riders on the final climb, but the duo wasn’t able to open up enough of an advantage to dispatch the rest of the breakaway group, with the remnants coming back together for the finale.
Meanwhile, Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) all but confirmed his first-ever Grand Tour victory, as he crossed the finish arm-in-arm with teammates and fellow podium finishers Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič, with only tomorrow’s flat stage into Madrid remaining.
Evenepoel was at it again, instigating a 31-rider move along the day’s early climbs, drawing out Mattia Cattaneo, James Knox, Louis Vervaeke (Soudal Quick-Step), Wilco Kelderman (Jumbo-Visma), Marc Soler, Finn Fisher-Black (UAE Team Emirates), Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), Wout Poels, Antonio Tiberi (Bahrain-Victorious), Lennard Kämna, Ben Zwiehoff (Bora-Hansgrohe), Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ), Romain Bardet (dsm-firmenich), Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost), Iván García Cortina, Einer Rubio (Movistar), Andreas Kron, Sylvain Moniquet, Lennert Van Eetvelt (Lotto-Dstny), Edward Planckaert, Jimmy Janssens (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Dorian Godon, Andrea Vendrame, Nicolas Prodhomme (AG2R Citroën Team), Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Matteo Sobrero (Jayco-AlUla), Élie Gesbert (Arkéa Samsic), Fernando Barceló, Joel Nicolau (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), and Pelayo Sánchez (Burgos-BH) along with him.
The first real action came along the second ascent of the Alto de Santa María, with Zwiehoff initiating a flurry of attacks. But, Evenepoel and his teammates prevented any further aggressions from there, later upping the tempo on an uncategorized climb inside the final 50 kilometers, subsequently allowing 10 to ride clear along the penultimate climb of the Puerto de la Cruz Verde.
From there, Cattaneo led the race onto the final climb of the Alto San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Shortly thereafter, Poels animated things with an attack along the 4.5 kilometer climb that dished out double-digit gradients in some places, causingThomas to bow out of contention, even causing Evenepoel to struggle at times.
Van Eetvelt was the only rider who could stay on terms with Poels at first, while Soler bridged across along the flatter section. While Evenepoel was fighting to hang on, Sánchez managed to surge away at the top of the climb. However, the pair managed to work their way back along the final run-in to the finish.
With other groups chasing close at hand, the cooperation was sound, and the first rider to break ranks was Poels with 500 meters to go, in what was a canny, strong, and stage-winning attack.
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