Emotional Remco Evenepoel bounces back with stage 14 win – Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta a Espana 2023

Stage 14

Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) made a Lazarus-style comeback to win stage 14 of the Vuelta a España from a two-rider breakaway with Romain Bardet (Team dsm-firmenich).

The Belgian endured a terrible day on stage 13 to the Co du Tourmalet, losing any hope of overall success. However, he fought back during the 156.2km ride in the Pyrenees, going in the early break and then staying away with Bardet.

He then attacked Bardet and powered to an emotional solo victory just 24 hours after his painful and disappointing defeat.

Bardet eased up to finish 1:12 back and hugged Evenepoel after their big day on the attack.

The GC group rode hard on the final climb, with Bahrain Victorious setting the pace. However, they finished together, 8:21 down on Evenepoel.

Sepp Kuss, Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard celebrate a good day of control with fist pumps. Kuss kept his lead and is 1:37 ahead of Roglič, with Vingegaard at 1:44. Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) is the best of the rest at 2:37.

Evenepoel struggled to hold back the tears after his emotional day back at the front of the Vuelta. “Yesterday was a very difficult day, also the evening, I couldn’t sleep too much,” he said.

“I had a very bad night and a lot of negative thoughts in my head. Today, I woke up, and I thought to myself, ‘Just go for it and make the best of it.’

“I did a recon of this stage because it was important for the GC and because it was a super hard stage. I knew it perfectly: how the climbs were, how hard they were because it was a super tough stage. I think it’s just super nice to take a second stage win. I can be very proud of this answer after yesterday.”

Romain Bardet on the wheel of Remco Evenepoel.

Stage 14 was another day in the high Pyrenees, with 50km on flat roads and then two hors category climbs before the category 1 climb up to the finish.

Before the rollout, Remco Evenepoel admitted that he had shed some tears after cracking during stage 13. However, he promised to fight back. He was immediately good to his word on the valley road, jumping in several attacks before a 24-rider move snapped the elastic to the peloton and got away.

It was an incredible effort from the young Belgian, rising from the ashes of his GC defeat less than 24 hours before.

Also in the 24-rider attack were Jonathan Castroviejo (Ineos Grenadiers), Damiano Caruso and Kamil Gradek (Bahrain-Victorious), Juan Pedro Lopez and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Lidl-Trek), Clement Davy and Michael Storer (FDJ), Lennard Kamna (Bora-Hansgrohe), Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Lennert Van Eetvelt (Lotto Dstny), Stefan Bissegger and Sean Quinn (EF Education), Rui Costa, Julius Johansen and Simone Petilli (Intermarché), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Andre Carvalho and Ruben Fernandez (Cofidis), Romain Bardet and Alberto Dainese (DSM-Firmenich), Kevin Vauquelin and Kevin Ledanois (Arkéa Samsic), and Joel Nicolau (Caja Rural).

Several riders tried to jump across, but the peloton eventually closed the door after the opening 30km was raced at over 50km/h.

The Col Hourcère began after a fast 50km of racing and marked a change in the race.

Evenepoel pushed on the pace with teammate Cattaneo and shook out the attack. Behind, Jan Tratnik set the early chase pace for Jumbo-Visma before UAE Team Emirates took over to employ their own stage strategy. Their combined pace made many in the peloton suffer, including Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), who had been on the attack earlier and his teammate Egan Bernal.

The 11km, 8.7% Col Hourcère hurt everyone but least of all Evenepoel. He led over the top to take 15 mountain points and then kept going with Bardet on the descent. The two dived down the descent and soon opened a 30-second gap.

The riders left in the break were unable to close the gap so Evenepoel and Bardet committed together to try to win the stage.

Yet behind, UAE Team Emirates had other ideas and continued to lead the GC group, keeping the attack at 3:10. The chances of victory moved back and forth between Evenepoel and Bardet and the UAE chase group.

The GC contenders on their way to the stage finish.

The Puerto de Larrau came quickly after the descent of the Col Hourcère and again hurt as a Hors Category, 15.1 km, 7.8% always should in Grand Tour racing.

Evenepoel and Bardet pressed on together, and so did UAE, as the weakest in the break fell apart and were gradually swept up. UAE used two riders to set the pace, Kuss, Roglič, and Vingegaard were happy to let them do it.

With 52km to go, Ayuso tried to stir up the GC battle after the work of his teammates. He accelerated once and then again. His surges split the GC group, but Kuss and the rest were quickly able to chase him down. It had not been worth the team effort.

The GC riders reached the summit of the Puerto de Larrau at 6:10 down on the Evenepoel-Bardet duo, with a few riders from the attack somewhere in between.

Evenepoel tried to hurt Bardet on a short, steep rise with 30km to go as the finale began. Bardet perhaps did less work on the front during their long ride out front but looked good and seemingly an equal match for the Belgian.

There was a quiet moment before the final shake out, but Evenepoel was clearly determined to use his power on the climb. Bardet did everything he could to stay with him.

The 9.4km long Puerto de Belagua rose at an average of 6.4% on fast roads. There was no launch pad point, but Evenepoel didn’t need one. With four kilometres to race, he upped the pace slightly, and Bardet suddenly struggled to hold his wheel.

Evenepoel didn’t hesitate and surged away, opening the gap more and more, all the way to the line.

He celebrated his victory, and his emotional fightback understandably ended with lots of tears, revealing Evenepoel’s true nature and humanity, the emotions of pro racing and the massive sacrifices it always demands.

On Friday, Evenepoel lost any hope of overall victory in the 2023 Vuelta. Today he proved he is a fighter and a winner.

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