Remco Evenepoel may not have succeeded in defending his 2022 Vuelta a España title, but the Belgian cycling sensation can look back on this year's race with immense satisfaction. Concluding three intense weeks in Spain, Evenepoel returns to Belgium not empty-handed, but adorned with the coveted polka dot climber's jersey and an impressive three stage victories.
Almost clinching a fourth stage win, for the second consecutive day, Evenepoel made a daring late attack during the final stage in Madrid, seizing the opportunity to break away from the peloton within the last 40 kilometers.
This audacious move saw him accompanied by Filippo Ganna and green jersey holder Kaden Groves. Despite a valiant effort to fend off the pursuing peloton, Evenepoel's strength waned in the final kilometer, allowing Groves to surge ahead and secure his third stage victory of the race, narrowly beating the Italian Ganna.
Remarkably, Ganna later revealed that he had playfully suggested to Evenepoel to launch an attack in the neutral zone, a remark that Evenepoel had taken quite seriously. After the intense stage, Evenepoel acknowledged that his legs gave out in the final moments but expressed his overall positivity regarding his Vuelta a España experience.
He reflected, "Whether I wanted to avoid the traditional bunch sprint? At the end it still looked like a bit of a sprint... It was also hard to attack because Kaden Groves was smart enough to stay in my wheel. He knew I would try something else.
I was in the least fortunate position to attack, and my start was strong, but my legs were full. But I had fun, and I can end this Vuelta with a good feeling."
Evenepoel's Vuelta Triumph and Resilience
Assessing his achievements in the Vuelta, Evenepoel spoke of his satisfaction, which includes a 12th place overall finish and the combativity prize, thanks to his involvement in five breakaways during the final week.
"I'm satisfied with this Vuelta. Only stage 13 was disappointing... I won three stages and almost a fourth. That's a nice result," he affirmed. Evenepoel admitted he still couldn't quite fathom the inexplicable setback on the road to the Col du Tourmalet, where he dropped 90 kilometers from the finish, losing 27 minutes and relinquishing his GC aspirations.
However, he emphasized the importance of moving past that day and drew inspiration from the subsequent stages where he showcased his resilience. "I am proud and happy. I still have no explanation for that off day. After that, everything went well, and I'll end the race with positive feelings and beautiful memories...
This Vuelta will certainly help me in the future," he reflected. With two more races on the horizon before his winter break, Evenepoel is gearing up for Il Lombardia on October 7 and the Chrono des Nations time trial on October 15.
Following a well-deserved rest week, he will enter a training block, preparing to take on formidable competitor Tadej Pogačar in the year's final Monument. As Evenepoel looks ahead to 2024, he is confident in his team's ability to prepare him for the Tour de France.
"I have confidence in the team. We will be at the start of the Tour with the best preparation possible," he declared, wrapping up his successful Vuelta a España journey with optimism and determination.
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