Vuelta a Espana 2023
Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quickstep) powered to victory on the first summit finale of the 2023 Vuelta a España, out-sprinting Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard on the high-altitude finish in Andorra.
The triumph was quickly followed by the Belgian champion crashing into a person standing in the road after the finish and coming away with a bloody face. Evenepoel was up quickly and, while annoyed with the situation, appeared to be OK.
Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) took the last of the bonus seconds with third on the stage.
Evenepoel traded his Belgian champion’s jersey for the red jersey as the new leader of the Vuelta, with Enric Mas (Movistar) five seconds back in second place. Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) is third at 31 seconds.
Most of the contenders finished in a group one second behind, but Ineos Grenadiers’ Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal lost 47 seconds to Evenepoel, Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates) gave up 10 seconds, and Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) gave up 1:14.
Evenepoel, visibly annoyed in his post-stage interview, highlighted the safety problems at this Vuelta that began with riders having to negotiate open roads in the dark after finishing the stage 1 TTT and a neutralisation on stage 2 that Evenepoel felt wasn’t enough. Today’s crash was the final straw.
“It was only 50 metres after the finish line, and it’s the third day in a row and it’s a bit breaking my balls now,” Evenepoel said.
On the plus side, a stage win and a healthy lead in the general classification was the result of “perfect tactics” from his Soudal-Quickstep team.
“I felt super good on the final climb with a long and very strong sprint, so I’m super happy with this victory,” he said.
“For us, it would have been a very good thing to have a breakaway gone, but when we caught them, Klaas [Lodewyck] said, ‘It’s for the win now, you have to be focused.’ That’s when I decided to go for it, and I felt I had a big punch left in my legs, so it’s good.
“It’s a good victory here in Andorra at high altitude. It shows my preparation was good and that I’m ready for the next three weeks.”
Riders faced the first major climbs of the Vuelta a España on stage 3 to Andorra, with two category 1 ascents a sting in the tail after a flat opening to the 158.5-kilometre stage from Súria: the Coll d’Ordino (17.3km at 7.7%) with 21km to go and the summit finish at Arinsal (8.3km at 7.7%).
After a frantic first hour at over 50kph, a group of nine finally emerged, with Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Lidl-Trek), Eduardo Sepúlveda (Lotto-Dstny), Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies), Damiano Caruso, Jasha Sütterlin (Bahrain Victorious), Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe), Andrea Vendrame (AG2R Citroën), Rune Herregodts (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Jon Barrenetxea (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Mathis Le Berre (Arkéa-Samsic) and Jose Manuel Diaz (Burgos-BH).
Andrea Piccolo (EF Education-EasyPost) started the day in the red race leader’s jersey but, as a rider not considered to be one to hold the race lead on the high mountain stage, the American team left most of the control of the stage to Jumbo-Visma and Soudal-QuickStep.
The peloton kept the breakaway on a tight leash, with the gap going out to four minutes before being brought back to just over three minutes and holding there until the first climb.
Team dsm-firmenich drove the pace into the final climb 2:30 behind the leaders – who began to come apart on the Coll d’Ordino – and the pressure popped Piccolo midway into the ascent.
As the breakaway were coming closer into reach at 1:30, Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates) attacked, drawing out Romain Bardet (dsm-firmenich) who leapt away solo 1.5km before the top. Jumbo-Visma’s Wilco Kelderman attacked and joined the Frenchman as they began to pick up the remnants of the day’s breakaway.
Sensing the chase, Caruso attacked before the summit but Sepúlveda came over the top to take the maximum mountain points, while Kämna, the only other rider to hold onto the breakaway, third.
UAE Team Emirates came to the front of the peloton to reel Bardet and Kelderman and crested with one minute to make up on the three leaders, who were struggling with a mix of wet and dry roads on the technical descent. Sepúlveda lost touch with Caruso and Kämna before the next climb.
The peloton eased up in preparation for a GC battle on the climb to the finish, allowing the two leaders’ gap to go out to over 1:30.
Kämna left Caruso behind with 6km to go but the Italian clawed his way back and began setting the pace to hold off the chase – a pursuit that had become a stalemate as no team would commit fully to closing down the duo.
It was only when UAE Team Emirates came forward in the steepest sections with 3km to go that the chasers picked up Caruso. An attack from Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) finally nullified Kämna and reduced the leading group to 12 riders and the GC fight failed to emerge.
Evenepoel opened up the sprint in the final few hundred metres and was closely tracked by Vingegaard, but the Belgian champion had more power to claim the stage win.
Stage 3 result:
1. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Soudal Quick-Step, in 4.15-39
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 1s
3. Juan Ayuso (Esp) UAE-Team Emirates
4. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma
5. Marc Soler (Esp) UAE-Team Emirates
6. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar
7. Lenny Martinez (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
8. Cian Uijtdebroeks (Bel) Bora-hansgrohe
9. João Almeida (Por) UAE-Team Emirates
10. Aleksandr Vlasov Bora-hansgrohe, all at same time
1. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Soudal Quick-Step, in 8.43-11
2. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 5s
3. Lenny Martinez (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 11s
4. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 31s
5. Aleksandr Vlasov Bora-hansgrohe, at 33s
6. Cian Uijtdebroeks (Bel) Bora-hansgrohe, at same time
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) DSM-Firmenich, at 35s
8. Santiago Buitrago (Col) Bahrain-Victorious, at 36s
9. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 37s
10. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at same time.