Remco Evenepoel drops Primož Roglič in first Vuelta GC shuffle

Jay Vine attacked late to seal his debut pro win on stage 6 as Evenepoel took the red jersey.

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Remco Evenepoel looked around to check where Primož Roglič was but the Slovenian had already disappeared back into the mist.

Biblical conditions marked the first uphill GC test of the Vuelta a España on stage 6, where in the rain Evenepoel teased once more that he could in fact be the second coming of christ.

The Belgian media have decamped to Spain en masse for their saviour’s second-ever Grand Tour and today was perhaps the first time the precocious 22-year-old really showed what he can do during a three-week stage race.

Towards the top of the Pico Jano the visibility worsened further. Only the lights of the motorbikes could be seen across the line as Jay Vine was left to “fight through candy floss” according to Eurosport’s Carlton Kirby, the Australian robbed of a picture-perfect moment for his debut professional victory. Vine, the former cycling Esports world champion, emerged smiling from the mist but will not have many digital memories to mark the most remarkable moment of his analogue cycling career so far.

“For me to go on the final climb it’s unreal for me to be able to do that, and to do that from the GC group is incredible. I’ve been working on this all year, it’s a dream come true,” Vine said after the finish, having chased down EF Education EasyPost’s Mark Padun who had made a final bid for victory from the day’s breakaway.

“I knew Padun was still up the road and if I was going to close down the gap I was going to have to go long. I planned that I had 13 minutes [of deficit] on GC that no-one would care if I went and I was able to manage my effort and pace the climb and handle it.

“There were a couple of things really,” he said of what crossed his mind over the closing kilometres. “This is for you, my wife, who has basically just done everything for me these last three or four years to get me to this point and [secondly] I guess it’s time for me to get a Corvette now.”

Enric Mas was the only one able to cling on to Evenepoel’s wheel, all clenched teeth and crunching gears as the pair made the ascent, the Belgian finished one second ahead of the Spaniard as they crossed the finish line 15 seconds behind Vine.

Next to arrive was Juan Ayuso, who had leapt from the GC group, finishing equidistant between the Evenepoel and Roglič groups, the Jumbo-Visma man left to grip his hoods as he fought gravity, eventually dragging the rest of the group of favourites 1-22 behind his Belgian rival who had simply ridden the three-time defending champion off his wheel.

No blistering attack, just a tightening stranglehold on the final climb after Julian Alaphilippe had wound things up until Roglič could no longer live with the young rider. Evenepoel now leads the former red jersey holder Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) by 21 seconds, Enric Mas by 28 seconds and Roglič by 1-01. UAE Team Emirates’ Juan Ayuso is now 5th overall at 1-12 while the Ineos Grenadiers triplet of Pavel Sivakov, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Carlos Rodriguez sit a minute and a half back, Richard Carapaz having been distanced and losing three minutes.

“I’m really happy and I’m proud to be here. It’s a big dream coming true, this is the reason why I’ve been working so hard for so long,” the new race leader Remco Evenepoel said. “Today is maybe one of the best things I’ve done on the bike. This is why we are here at the Vuelta. I hope we can keep this good feeling.”

“Not much huh,” was Roglič’s typically deadpan answer when asked about what happened on stage 6. “Didn’t really have the legs for the win so I just fought all the way to the finish. It was on me at the end but on the other hand all others probably want to win the race but not fight for it. There’s still a long way, today we lost a bit but hopefully we gain a bit later on. That they got stronger, I didn’t really need that proof, today it was quite difficult weather for the Vuelta.”

After less than a week this Vuelta is warming up quite nicely despite today’s inclement conditions. The final podium in Madrid remains as unclear as today’s summit finish.

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