Vuelta a San Juan Internacional
Stage 5) Caucete - Alto Colorada
Enormous Evenepoel retains Vuelta a San Juan overall lead
Friday’s queen stage of the Vuelta a San Juan wasn’t just the most difficult of this edition, but also one of the best in the history of the race created back in 1982, with Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Remco Evenepoel as the key figure of this gripping and unforgettable 169.5km leg from San Martin to Alto Colorado.
The stage truly came to life well over 100 kilometers from the start, when Remco was put under pressure once echelons formed in a plateau and he found himself in the second group, together with Pieter Serry and Bert Van Lerberghe. Four teams joined hands at the front to keep the chasers at bay, and drove a fearsome pace that took the gap to one minute and a half, at the same time absorbing the survivors of the eight-man breakaway that had animated the day up until that point.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s trio didn’t give up, and with fresh reinforcements after Zdenek Stybar dropped out from the leading group and waited for them, they showed for the umpteenth time the amazing and distinct Wolfpack spirit that has so many times risen to the surface in the most difficult situations. Constantly changing at the front of the group, they wiped out a large chunk of the gap, before Evenepoel took the matters into his own hands and astonishingly made the junction with eight kilometers to go.
The overall leader didn’t stop there and pushed the tempo before putting in a series of attacks that made it hard for his opponents to try something. Eventually, he finished fifth, just a handful of seconds behind winner Miguel Angel Florez (Androni Giocattoli) and kept hold of the white jersey, which he will take into the final weekend of the race, with a comfortable buffer over the two riders rounding out the podium.
“When the peloton split, I couldn’t follow the best because I got closed between two riders and I must say that I had a moment of panic when the gap went to 1:30. With the help of my incredible teammates I closed in on the leaders and then worked together with Sevilla and made it back to the top group. I am happy that I could keep the jersey and didn’t lose any time. Now there are two more days left which are more open to sprinters than for climbers and therefore I feel more relaxed for the overall, but we will have to remain attentive until Sunday”, Remco said after the queen stage.
Photo credit: ©Maximiliano Blanco / Getty Images