Remco Evenepoel: first Belgian cyclist to win a Grand Tour in Spain in 44 years
This Sunday 11 September will be a historic day for Belgian cycling. Remco Evenepoel will be crowned the first Belgian winner of a Grand Tour in Madrid in 44 years. The 22-year-old Flemish cyclist is on his way to win the Vuelta a España.
On Saturday, Evenepoel survived the last mountain stage to Puerto de Navacerrada with flying colours. He was sixth in the results, just behind big competitor Enric Mas (Movistar). That follows in the standings at 2:05 from Evenepoel. No time differences are expected in the billiard-level final stage of 96.7 km between Las Rozas and Madrid. Remco Evenepoel will thus become the first Belgian winner of a Grand Tour since Johan De Muynck, who won the Giro in 1978.
Evenepoel was emotional on Saturday after the finish and spoke of "the most beautiful day of his life on the most important day of his career". Earlier this year, he also won Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Clasica San Sebastian.
“After all the critiques and bad comments I got, I finally made it happen. I answered with the pedals. I've worked so hard to be here in my best shape. It's great that I can win this Vuelta," Remco said.
“I'm also happy to be the first rider to win a Grand Tour ahead of Patrick (Lefevere). I think of Belgium and my teammates, but also of my parents and fiancé. I've been away from home so many times. This is also thanks to them,” he added.
In the Vuelta he conquered the red leader's jersey after the sixth stage and did not relinquish it. He won stage 10, the time trial to Alicante, and stage 18, the finish at the top of Alto del Piornal. Evenepoel had his most difficult moment last Saturday, in the stage to Sierra de La Pandera. There he lost 48 seconds to Primoz Roglic, at that time his biggest competitor for the overall victory. However, the Slovenian literally dropped out of the Tour of Spain last Tuesday.
Evenepoel took away all doubts on Thursday with his second stage win and did not get into trouble afterwards. The leader of Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl will not return to Belgium next week, but will immediately make the big crossing to Australia, where the World Cycling Championships are scheduled for later this month. Evenepoel will take part in the time trial (18 September) and the road race (25 September).
© BELGA PHOTO (OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP) Belgian rider Remco Evenepoel celebrates as he crosses the finish line during the 18th stage of 2022 La Vuelta on September 8, 2022.