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Evenepoel consolidates the leadership of the Vuelta and leaves Roglic against the ropes

BarcelonaAt 22, the Belgian Remco Evenepoel seems ready to finally climb the podium of a grand tour. The Quick Step rider has managed to strengthen the leadership of the Vuelta Ciclista in Spain in a beautiful ninth stage in which no favorite has followed his pace as he gritted his teeth and pedaled harder. The Vuelta rests this Monday with Evenepoel taking one minute and 12 seconds off the second-placed, Mallorcan Enric Mas (Movistar), and almost two minutes on the reigning champion, a Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) who does not convey good feelings.

The stage was won by a natural fighter like the South African Louis Meintjes (Intermarché), who at the age of 30 has finally won a stage in a big race. Meintjes has finished three times in the Tour’s top ten, but he needed to cross the finish line first on a stage like this one between Villaviciosa and Les Praeres Nava, 174.1 km long, with a final climb on a small road that gave him an epic touch to his triumph over the Italian Samuele Battistela (Astana), who came a minute later. The escapees have fought for the stage triumph while behind, in the big group, Evenepoel put on the table all the virtues that turned him three years ago into one of the great promises of the international circuit, at the level of Tadej Pogacar. When in 2019 he won his first races, such as the European time trial or the San Sebastián classic, the talent of a young man who, between injuries and falls, has not exploded again until this season, but always in one-day classics such as Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Now he looks set to take advantage of the poor timing of Roglic, who is aiming to become the first man to win the Vuelta four years in a row, to make the big leap forward to a major race. In fact, Evenepoel has never finished a Giro, a Tour or a Vuelta. His performance in the last two weeks of competition, then, will be a mystery.

Behind him, Enric Mas has managed not to lose much time and remains firm in second position. The runner from Artà has already finished the Vuelta twice in second place, but if he wants to make the jump to first position he will have to be braver, since at the moment his greatest success is being the last to fall when Evenepoel sets a high pace. Roglic suffered so much today that he ended up being overtaken by the young Juan Ayuso. The Valencian, born in Barcelona, ​​is fifth overall. After tomorrow’s rest day, the Vuelta will leave the north of the Peninsula and return to action in Elche, with an individual time trial of 30.9 km.

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