Evenepoel crashes but emerges unscathed atop Vuelta’s Peñas Blancas

Richard Carapaz attacked late from the breakaway to take victory on stage 12.

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Remco Evenepoel stood by the side of the road holding his bike as those working in the Vuelta’s host broadcast TV gallery scrambled to find whether one of their cameras had captured the moment the red jersey fell.

Soon enough, as Evenepoel cursed his way back up through the cars, stopping at the commissaires vehicle to give them a bit of grief, the footage emerged. Within the first few wheels at the front of the bunch, the Belgian had simply slid out and hit the deck, following in the footsteps of his world champion teammate Julian Alaphilippe who’d crashed out the day before.

The fault appeared to be solely Evenepoel’s despite the overheard remonstrations at the official race car about motorbikes slowing in that corner. An understandable flash of frustration and embarrassment as the pressure builds en route to Madrid.

“Sorry about the crash,” Evenepoel said on his radio to his team after the finish line, having asserted himself once more on a bike carrying blood-spattered handlebars, the injuries picked up from his fall seemingly mostly cosmetic rather than critical.

Movistar had tried to set things up, second-place Enric Mas latching on to teammates falling back from the day’s breakaway just to test Evenepoel’s resolve. Miguel Ángel López also soon had a dig, Primož Roglič caught lacking and having to chase back on.

Evenepoel held firm, however, sprinting ahead of Mas, Roglič and Juan Ayuso, while López and Ineos Grenadiers’ Carlos Rodriguez came across alone having lost a handful of seconds each.

“Just my leg but it’s fine I think. My bike is much worse than myself,” Remco Evenepoel reflected on the crash as he warmed down. “[It] was a super slippery corner, the motorbikes were slipping as well and slowing down so that’s why I wanted to cut the corner but it was a bit too much. Sorry for my words but shit happens.”

The final climb was not a problem for you?

“Good, was nothing bad. I knew it was a climb to just follow. The last 200m I just went a full-out sprint because I felt I had something left. Now I’m just going to heal the wounds and try to recover on the sprint stage tomorrow.”

The stage honours up the 14km Peñas Blancas would be decided by the break and won by a man who would have preferred to be eight minutes back down the road fighting it out for the top placings in the general classification.

Richard Carapaz had snuck himself into the day’s break by virtue of his 19-minute deficit in the overall, evidence that things hadn’t gone as planned so far this Vuelta. The pent-up disappointment seeped out of him as he banged his handlebars on his solo approach to the finish line, having attacked Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe), Marco Brenner (DSM) and Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates) with less than 2km remaining.

At one point on the road, Kelderman had leapfrogged Mas into second overall as his teammate Matteo Fabbro drove the pace, and the Dutchman has now moved up to sixth overall, six minutes down. Carapaz has also almost halved his deficit.

Stage 12 was an uphill finish sandwiched by sprint days and one that could have been more hotly contested, but you feel the GC contenders have their eyes firmly fixed on the mountain tests to come this weekend.

“It was long, quite long, but it was fine,” Roglič confirmed of the finishing climb.

Is the Slovenian’s condition improving? Why did Jumbo-Visma contribute to pacing on the Peñas Blancas?

“We will see, for sure today I had good feelings so hopefully I can improve,” Roglič answered the first. “Definitely, we are a bit behind so we need to catch up,” came the response to the second, remaining hopeful. “It’s still a long way.”

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