Evenepoel clinches Vuelta title to become Grand Tour winner

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Remco Evenepoel put some tough times behind him with the biggest win of his career.

Two years ago, he was flying off a bridge in a horrific crash that left him hospitalized for several days. A year ago, his loyalty to teammates was being questioned by a cycling great.

It was all forgotten as the 22-year-old Evenepoel from team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl won the Spanish Vuelta for his first Grand Tour victory.

“It’s history for team, for my country, for myself,” Evenepoel said. “I think we can be really proud of what we did the last three weeks.”

It was a statement win for Evenepoel, who became the first Belgian to win a major three-week event since Johan De Muynck won the Giro d’Italia in 1978. It was also sweet redemption for his father, Patrick Evenepoel, who finished 113th of 114 riders in the Vuelta in 1993.

Evenepoel crossed the finish line one last time while wearing the leader’s red jersey in the celebratory final stage through the streets of the Spanish capital, then got a hug and a kiss from his partner before raising his bicycle overhead in front of his teammates.

“Now it really sinks in, it’s really official,” he said. “Already yesterday the emotions were quite high. We were actually there but we still had to finish the race safe and in a good way. We enjoyed as much as possible and now we can really enjoy.”

Colombian Juan Sebastian Molano of UAE Team Emirates won the closing Stage 21 in Madrid, ahead of Mads Pedersen and Pascal Akermann.

Evenepoel, who held the red jersey since taking the lead in Stage 6 and overcame a hard crash in the Stage 12, had secured the victory by holding off Enric Mas and the rest of his challengers in the last competitive stage.

Evenepoel ended 2 minutes, 2 seconds ahead of Mas of team Movistar. Another Spaniard was third, with Juan Ayuso finishing nearly five minutes off the lead with UAE Team Emirates.

Evenepoel didn’t have to worry about three-time defending champion Primoz Roglic, who had to retire because of injuries sustained in a crash near the end of Stage 16. Also not contending at the end was 2018 Vuelta winner Simon Yates, who was one of the many riders who had to withdraw during the race because of positive coronavirus tests.

For Evenepoel, it was about using his pedals to answer his doubters and critics, including Eddy Merckx, the Belgian great who had said last year that the youngster was unwilling to ride for his team.

Also last year, Evenepoel was flung into the barriers in Stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia, and the year before he survived a nasty crash in which he fell several meters (yards) off the side of a bridge and was hospitalized with a broken pelvis.

This year’s Vuelta marked an emotional farewell for veteran Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, the 2009 champion, and Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali, the 2010 Vuelta winner. Both are set to retire and were greeted with a guard of honor by the other cyclists.

Giro d’Italia to start on former railway line in Abruzzo

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L’AQUILA, Italy — The 2023 edition of the Giro d’Italia will start with an individual time trial on a coastal cycle path that has been recreated from a former railway line in the region of Abruzzo.

At a ceremony in the Abruzzo capital of L’Aquila, race organizers announced that the Grand Tour will run from May 6-28 and begin with an 18.4-kilometer (11.4-mile) time trial on the Adriatic coast.

Almost the entire time trial will be on the spectacular Costa dei Trabocchi cycle path that hugs the coast line before a short climb to the finish in Ortona.

“I am excited at the idea of the Grande Partenza (Big Start) of the Giro in Abruzzo . It is a dream come true, especially with regard to the prologue on the Costa dei Trabocchi,” said Trek-Segafredo cyclist Dario Cataldo, who is from the region.

“I well remember that when the cycle path project was born and I saw the first tracks, I imagined the beauty of a Giro d’Italia passing along the route. It looked perfect.”

Stage 2 is a 204-kilometer (127-mile) leg from Teramo to San Salvo that is hilly in the first part but expected to end in a bunch sprint.

Stage 3 will also start in the Abruzzo region, in Vasto, but it will then head south and will be detailed when the full route is revealed on Oct. 17 in Milan.

The Giro will also return to the region for Stage 7, a daunting climb on the Gran Sasso d’Italia to Campo Imperatore. The high mountain stage, on May 12, will be the edition’s first finish above 2,000 meters.

Australian Jai Hindley won this year’s Giro.

Norway takes gold-medal lead at world road cycling titles

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WOLLONGONG, Australia – Soren Waerenskjold repeated Norway’s gold medal success at the world road cycling championships a day after Tobias Foss finished first in the elite men’s time trial.

Waerenskjold won the men’s under-23 time trial on the second day of the championships with a dominant performance. He clocked 34 minutes, 13.40 seconds over the 28.8-kilometer course to beat Belgian Alec Segaert by 16.34 seconds.

British rider Leo Hayter, the younger brother of elite rider Ethan Hayter, was 24.16 seconds off the pace for the bronze medal.

Foss beat a strong field to win the elite time trial, the biggest win of his career.

Norway has two gold medals, while Dutch ace Ellen van Dijk beat Australian Grace Brown to take out the women’ elite time trial.

The mixed relay time trial is set for Wednesday. The championships conclude on the weekend with the women’s road race on Saturday and the men’s on Sunday.