Second consecutive mountain stage in the Tour of Spain 2023 through Asturian lands. A hard day in which the climb to the Cruz de Linares began and in which Remco Evenepoel did his thing again, not only promoting the escape of the day, but also selecting it at will to arrive alone after a tremendous ride.
The waters return to their channel in the Jumbo-Visma. After the deplorable image of the team offered yesterday, sanity has once again reigned in the Dutch team and those unwritten rules of cycling that say your leader is not attacked, he is protected, are applied.
All of this in a very tough second stage in Asturias with a route of almost 180 kilometers that linked Pola de Lena and the unprecedented port of Cruz de Linares, which was reached after a journey full of ports with the ascents to Estacas, the demanding port of San Loreno. , the short but with tremendous ramps Tenebredo and, as dessert, a double ascent to Cruz de Linares, the latest discovery of the Vuelta a España and which offers us just over 8 kilometers of ascent.
As usual, the stage started very quickly, with many people trying to be part of the day’s escape. This led to an agonizing first 40 kilometers until the first ramps of Estacas where the escape would be made almost by mere natural selection, including some of the usual suspects of this last week, among them, of course, Remco Evenepoel, unleashed after his collapse in the Aubisque.
Jumbo-Visma had no intention of putting up a fight with the classification tied up and after the multiple criticisms that came to it after the strange behavior shown in the promotion to Angliru. He set a fast but conservative pace which meant that the break went beyond 10 minutes, which practically ensured that victory was ahead and, among those there, Remco Evenepoel was the one who had the upper hand at almost all times.
For the moment, he was content with maintaining control to add points for the mountain classification which, with his achievements at the top of San Lorenzo, would ensure him getting this jersey upon arrival next Sunday in Madrid.
It was at the start of Tenebredo when Evenepoel took action and set a hard pace, but a pace nonetheless, without attacks. A pasodoble that tormented those who went to its wheel by selecting the escape until it was left in just six units. Section of catching air in the transition between this pass and the first of the ascents to Cruz de Linares and the Belgian returned to repeat the move.
Egan Bernal and Andreas Kron gave way first, who shortly before had attempted a change of pace trying to sow doubt in Evenepoel. A few kilometers later the Soudal-QuickStep team redoubled the pace and got rid of Max Poole and Damiano Caruso by leaving, with 29 kilometers to go, alone for a sure victory.
Only the dangerous descent of Cruz de Linares put some uncertainty in Remco’s victory, but he faced it without taking the slightest risk, knowing the juicy cushion of time he had. The second ascent was simply a triumphant ride, a mass bath in which to enjoy their third victory in this Vuelta a España 2023 with the possibility of achieving a fourth, which they will surely try on next Saturday’s day in the Sierra de Guadarrama.
And what was happening behind? Well, nothing at all. Jumbo-Visma continued with its crushing pace until the beginning of the first of the climbs to Cruz de Linares where Bahrain-Victorious proposed again with the help of an immeasurable Wout Poels who prepared the ground for a possible move by Mikel Landa.
First ascent without movements and we had to wait until halfway through the second of the climbs for the Vitorian to delight the fans with one of his iconic attacks caught in the bend of the handlebars. However, there was more will than strength and he was easily neutralized by Jonas Vingegaard who today put on the overalls for his teammate and overall leader.
Mikel Landa would try again a little later, again timidly and supported with the same feeling of lack of strength by Juan Ayuso while on this occasion it was Sepp Kuss himself who pulled his weight and responded in the first person.
We still saw some more pushes, with the same lack of conviction, in the last kilometer where Sepp Kuss showed solidity while Jonas Vingegaard took a toll on the control work carried out on the climb and gave up a couple of seconds, unimportant given the clarity which is the general.
The Spanish round will continue this Friday with stage 19, a completely flat section of 177.1 kilometers between La Bañeza and Íscar, in which the sprinters will have their penultimate opportunity to appear.
Classification Stage 18
Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) 4h47’37”
Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) +4’44”
Andreas Kron (Lotto-Dstny) +5’10”
Max Poole (DSM-Firmenich) +5’12”
Paul Ourselin (TotalEnergies) +5’17”
Julien Bernard (Lidl-Trek) +6’11”
Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) +7’01”
Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) +9’29”
Enric Mas (Movistar Team) m.t.
Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) m.t.
Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) +60h34’21”
Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +17”
Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) +1’08”
Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) +4’00”
Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) +4’19”
Enric Mas (Movistar Team) +4’30”
Cian Uijtdebroeks (Bora-Hansgrohe) +7’37”
Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) +8’35”
Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) +10’20”
Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious) +12’20”