Belgian hero Evenepoel seals Vuelta title

Remco Evenepoel left tough times behind with the biggest win of his thriving cycling career.

Two years ago, he flew off a bridge in a terrible accident that left him hospitalized for several days. A year ago, his loyalty to teammates was questioned by a great cyclist.

But all was forgotten on Sunday when Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s 22-year-old Evenepoel took the Vuelta a Espana for his first Grand Tour victory.

Many believe it will certainly not be the last.

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

It was a decisive victory 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 will only solidify his superstar status in the nation. crazy about cycling.

“Now it’s really sinking, it’s really official,” he said. “The emotions were strong enough yesterday. In fact we were there but we still had to finish the race safely and in the right direction. We had as much fun as possible and now we can really enjoy it ”.

UAE Team Emirates’ Colombian Juan Sebastian Molano won the final 21st stage in Madrid, ahead of points winner Mads Pedersen – his fourth runner-up with his three stage wins – and Pascal Ackermann.

Evenepoel, who had held the red jersey since taking the lead in stage six and overcoming a brutal crash in stage 12, secured victory by pushing back Enric Mas and the rest of his opponents in the final stage. competitive Saturday.

Evenepoel finished 2 minutes and 2 seconds ahead of Mas de Movistar. Another Spaniard finished third, with Juan Ayuso finishing nearly five minutes behind with UAE Team Emirates.

Evenepoel didn’t have to worry about three-time reigning champion Primoz Roglic, who had to retire due to injuries sustained in an accident towards the end of Stage 16.

Vuelta 2018 winner Simon Yates, who was one of many drivers who had to retire during the race due to positive coronavirus tests, was also out of the game in the end.

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

Also last year, Evenepoel was thrown into the barriers during the 17th stage of the Giro d’Italia, and the year before he survived a bad accident in which he fell several meters on the side of a bridge and was hospitalized. in the hospital with a fractured pelvis.

This year’s Vuelta marked an exciting farewell to Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde, 2009 champion, and Italian driver Vincenzo Nibali, winner of the 2010 Vuelta. The two greats are about to retire and were greeted with a hedge of honor. from other cyclists.

The Australian Vuelta challenge, which saw two decisive stage wins for Jay Vine and another for sprinter Kaden Groves, ended with Ben O’Connor’s first 10 finishes (AG2R Citroën, 8th in 10:30 ) and Jai Hindley (BORA-Hansgrohe, 10 to 12:01).

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