Vuelta a Espana: Evenepoel damages Roglic's hopes as Meintjes seals first stage win

·3-min read

Remco Evenepoel extended his overall lead at the Vuelta a Espana as he stormed up the final climb during stage nine.

Evenepoel held a 28-second lead in the General Classification heading into Sunday's 153.4-kilometre route from Villaviciosa to Les Praeres, but is now over a minute ahead of the chasing pack, including three-time reigning champion Primoz Roglic.

Indeed, Roglic's chances of claiming an unprecedented fourth straight Vuelta crown will look bleak if Evenepoel can replicate this form for the rest of the race.

Louis Meintjes was the stage winner on the category one climb to the line, finishing over a minute ahead of Italian duo Samuele Battistella and Edoardo Zambanini.

Evenepoel came in fourth, well over a minute behind Meintjes, but he was 44 seconds clear of Enric Mas, who occupies second in the race for the red jersey, and 53 seconds ahead of Roglic.

The Belgian is now one minute and 12 seconds ahead of Mas and almost two minutes better off than Roglic, and his feat is even more impressive considering he went into the stage having lost a key figure in his team, with Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl domestique Pieter Serry having tested positive for COVID-19.

Likewise, Roglic and Jumbo-Visma will have to manage the rest of the La Vuelta without Sepp Kuss, who withdrew with a fever, while Wout Poels joined Serry in returning a positive coronavirus test.

Maiden win for Meintjes

While Evenepoel did the damage in the GC, Meintjes' ride cannot be overlooked. He was the strongest of a nine-man breakaway and held on to claim his first stage win at a Grand Tour.

"It's something really special – I think it still needs some time to sink in. I've actually never been on the podium of a World Tour race except for team classifications so that was one of my main goals before stopping my career," the South African said.

"The last few days in the mountain finishes I was just not quite fast enough to keep up with the GC guys. Then, if I don't get a result that way, the best is to go in the breakaway. It worked out perfectly today. I was quite lucky – my team controlled it quite well and I tried once and picked the right breakaway so that was good teamwork."

STAGE RESULT

1. Louis Meintjes (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) 4:32:39
2. Samuele Battistella (Astana Qazaqstan Team) +1:01
3. Edoardo Zambanini (Bahrain Victorious) +1:14
4. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) +1:34
5. Filippo Conca (Lotto Soudal) +1:58

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 34:02:32
2. Enric Mas (Movistar) +1:12
3. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) +1:53

Points Classification

1. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) 147
2. Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) 142
3. Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) 81

King of the Mountains

1. Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 40
2. Robert Stannard (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 21
3. Jimmy Janssens (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 17