Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) took his first victory of the second part of the season in truly commanding fashion, atop the Picon Blanco, a 7.8km climb with a 9.3% average gradient that awaited the riders at the end of a complicated Vuelta a Burgos day. It was the 20-year-old’s sixth success since the start of the campaign and one which saw him pull on the leader’s jersey with just two stages to go.
The crosswinds were one of the day’s highlights, hitting some two hours into the stage and fragmenting the peloton into several groups. Despite the combined forces of Bora-Hansgrohe and Team Ineos everything came back together, in part thanks to a strong ride of Shane Archbold and Michael Mørkøv, who helped ensure that the groups would merge.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step continued to set the pace all the way until the early slopes of Picon Blanco, keeping Evenepoel out of the wind and bringing him to the front before the punishingly steep section of this draining climb, which strung out the peloton.
Evenepoel turned on the gas with two kilometres to go and rode everyone off his wheel, before surging past the last survivor of the breakaway and continuing his march. The European ITT Champion rode steadily, undeterred by the biting gradient, and increased his advantage to 18 seconds over George Bennett (Team Jumbo-Visma) by the time he arrived at the finish. Mikel Landa Meana (Bahrain McLaren) finished third at 32″ with Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) a further three seconds down.
“First and foremost, I want to thank the team, because this win wouldn’t have been possible without them. They helped me in the echelons, rallied around me and kept me out of the wind, and this victory is my way of thanking them for their amazing work. I was confident in the guys, they had confidence in me, and you could see that in today’s result. Winning again after so many months feels great and doing it on the new Specialized Tarmac SL 7 makes it even more special”, said Evenepoel after the finish.
“The pace was very high, but when an attack came with two kilometres to go, I decided to jump as I noticed that many riders were on their limit. It wasn’t easy, but if you don’t try, you don’t win, so today I tried. When I saw the gap kept growing, I pushed and pushed and went flat out, even though there was a really strong headwind in the last kilometre.
“To take both the stage and the leader’s jersey is amazing and we’ll try and keep it until the end, but we won’t rest on our laurels. The race isn’t in the pocket yet, as there are still two stages left, including a hard mountain one, but we’ll continue to give everything. We are in good form after our Val di Fassa training camp, which really helped us gear up for the restart of the season, and hopefully we’ll rack up some more nice results in Spain.”