CISTIERNA, Spain – Jesus Herrada placed his head on his bicycle’s handlebar and cried profusely after winning Stage 7 at the Spanish Vuelta.
Herrada was hugged by a team member and sat by his bike and put both of his hands in front of his face.
He was still wiping away tears when other riders arrived to congratulate him.
It took the 32-year-old Spaniard a few minutes to fully compose himself after the victory in the Vuelta’s seventh stage.
Remco Evenepoel stayed safely in the peloton to hold on to the overall lead ahead of Rudy Molard, Enric Mas and three-time defending champion Primoz Roglic.
Herrada prevailed in the breakaway group to win his second ever stage in the Vuelta, and first in three years. The Cofidis rider narrowly edged Samuele Battistella and Fred Wright after a 190-kilometer (118-mile) mid-mountain stage in northern Spain.
“It’s crazy,” Herrada said. “I had to be patient in the last kilometer, following wheels. I knew there were fast men in the group but I trusted my sprint. We’ll savor this win.”
It was the second stage win for a Spaniard in three days after the nation went two years without a win at a Grand Tour race. Marc Soler won the fifth stage on Wednesday to end Spain’s winless streak.
The peloton was closing in on the five breakaway riders who also included Jimmy Janssens and Harrison Sweeny, but not soon enough.
Evenepoel was among those crossing the line 29 seconds later to keep his overall 21-second lead over Molard and 28-second lead over Mas. Roglic stayed fourth in the general classification, about a minute behind.
“It’s a pity for the teams working in the bunch not to catch the breakaway, but there was a really strong group in the front,” said Evenepoel, of team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl. “I have a nice advantage now, so I would also be happy if I could just keep this time gap over the rest, but of course, if there’s an opportunity, I will not let it go. It’s a three-week race, and arriving to the time trial with an advantage will be better than being behind.”
Evenepoel is only the second Belgian rider to retain the leader’s red jersey for more than a day in the Vuelta in the last 40 years, after Philippe Gilbert did it in 2010.
Riders will face a difficult mountain stage in Asturias on Saturday.