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Wout Poels beats Evenepoel on the Vuelta’s penultimate stage

Wout Poels beats Evenepoel on the Vuelta's penultimate stage

Wout Poels beat Remco Evenepoel in a five-man sprint to win Saturday’s penultimate stage of the 78th La Vuelta Ciclista a España. Poels has taken both of his career Grand Tour stage victories this season. Both riders were part of a large breakaway that faced 10 Cat. 3 climbs. The GC race is over–there was hardly a struggle on Saturday–and Sepp Kuss has one hand on the trophy, his first Grand Tour victory and Jumbo-Visma’s sweep of the 2023 Grand Tours with three different riders.

Kuss has one hand on the trophy, and Jumbo-Visma is poised to sweep the 2023 Grand Tours. Photo: Sirotti

The Course

Saturday was a festival of Cat. 3 climbs over 208 km. After leaving Manzanares El Real, the riders would assail their first two Cat. 3s before entering a circuit where they’d climb La Escondida, Alto de Santa María de la Alameda and Alto de Robledondo. After two laps they still had Puerto de la Cruz Verde to climb from the other side and finally Alto San Lorenzo de El Escorial, which peaked 16 km from the finish in Guadarrama.

Many riders tried to spring forth in the opening kilometers and failed, but when the breakaway formed, it was enormous. Thirty-one riders, including Evenepoel with three teammates, Poels, Marc Soler, Geraint Thomas, Romain Bardet and one-time red jersey Lenny Martinez scooted away. Evenepoel didn’t bother fighting for every KOM point as the platoon went up and down all day, since he was so far ahead in the competition already.

When the Evenepoel bunch left the circuit in the rain, it was 7:00 clear of the red jersey group. Soudal-QuickStep was the engine.

The penultimate climb, Puerto de la Cruz Verde, was more long than hard at 7.3 km of 3.8 percent. The breakaway reached its foot in pieces, and 20 riders descended together.

The final ascent, Alto San Lorenzo de El Escorial, was 4.5 km of 6.5 percent, but with some cobbles, narrow roads and very steep pitches. Poels attacked and this move seemed to find Evenepoel out. Lennert Van Eetvelt and Soler were able to go…

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