Remco Evenepoel dropped his main challengers on Sunday’s gruelling final ascent at Les Praeres to increase his overall Vuelta a España lead on stage nine.
The Belgian rider launched his attack about 3km from the summit to extend his lead before Monday’s rest day and Tuesday’s time trial in Alicante. Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) extended his lead over Enric Mas (Movistar) by 44 seconds to 1m 12s, with defending champion Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) nearly two minutes behind.
Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert) broke away to win the stage, crossing the line more than a minute ahead of Samuele Battistella (Astana), Edoardo Zambanini (Bahrain-Victorious) and Evenepoel. The 30-year-old is the first South African stage winner in the Vuelta since Robbie Hunter in 2001.
Evenepoel got the help he needed from his Quick-Step team despite the absence of Pieter Serry, who had to withdraw before the stage after testing positive for Covid-19. “I’m really impressed by my team,” the 22-year-old said.
“I’m so happy with the guys, it actually makes me a bit emotional seeing these guys working their hearts out for me,” Evenepoel added. “In a climb like this, it’s all about the power, there’s no drafting or anything because it’s too steep.”
Meintjes, who moved up to 16th in the overall classification, called his stage win “something special … I’ve never been on the podium of a World Tour race except for a team classification so that was one of my main goals before ending my career.”
“The last few days, I was just not quite fast enough in the mountain finishes,” he added. “If I can’t [get] a result that way, the best was to go in the breakaway and it worked out perfectly.”
Dowsett steps back from road cycling
The six-time British time trial champion Alex Dowsett has announced his retirement from professional road cycling. The 33-year-old, who broke the Hour Record on the track in 2015, announced his decision in a YouTube video.
“I’m going to step out of the WorldTour, step out of pro cycling from now,” he said. “I think what’s changed is this year [is], I’ve gone through a period where the want to win something bigger than I’ve previously won, or be better than I’ve previously been, has wavered.”
“I’ve been more in a state of actually being happy with what I’ve achieved and being content with my work, and my achievements and success and application,” added Dowsett, who added that his future plans would still “be on two wheels”.
“I have achieved everything I can in within the World Tour, within professional cycling at this level, but also I’ve witnessed life outside pro cycling and that’s filled me with excitement,” Dowsett concluded.
Dowsett spent time in his career with Trek, Team Sky, Movistar, Katusha-Alpecin and most recently Israel Premier-Tech, winning the team’s first Grand Tour stage win with victory on stage eight of the 2020 Giro d’Italia.
He broke the prestigious Hour Record in Manchester with a ride of 52.937km in May 2015, although Sir Bradley Wiggins took the record from him only a month later. Dowsett, who also runs the Little Bleeders charity, is a haemophiliac and is believed to be the only able-bodied athlete to have the condition. PA Media