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Mist enshrouded the summit of the Colláu Fancuaya and torpedoed TV coverage at the Vuelta a España on Saturday’s eighth stage, but racing must have been red-hot beneath the cloud.
Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) was busy rampaging up the road and within 1,700 meters of victory when red jersey Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) emerged from the murk with Enric Mas (Movistar Team), Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), and Carlos Rodríguez (Ineos Grenadiers) locked to his wheel.
Evenepoel continued Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s stage-long power play all through to the finish line. The Belgian towed Mas and Roglič with him in what might be a sign of things to come as the three finished level on time and at the front of the GC action.
Evenepoel protected his lead and the Vuelta’s first week “big three” grew their gap on the chasing pack by a handful more seconds on the Spanish tour’s second-bests.
An expansion of the top of the classification Saturday sees Evenepoel, Mas and Roglič coiled in a 61-second scrap.
Ineos Grenadiers duo Rodríguez and Geoghegan Hart lead the chase but slipped to almost two minutes behind the red jersey in Saturday’s tough multi-mountain test.
Richard Carapaz and then Pavel Sivakov crumbled beneath Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl pressure and decisively relinquished the Ineos Grendiers’ captain’s armband on the Fancuaya.
Rising Spanish ace Rodríguez arguably now takes the front seat of the Ineos Grenadiers bus with Geoghegan Hart lurking close behind.
Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco), Juan Ayuso, Joao Almeida (both UAE Team Emirates), Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Ben O’Connor (Ag2r-Citroën) trailed to the top of the Fancuaya in a handful of broken down and bleary-eyed groups around one minute behind Evenepoel’s surge for the finish to fall further behind in the pursuit.
⏪🎬 Una de las etapas más duras de la edición consigue regalarnos un espectáculo durante más de 150 km. ¡Revive los mejores momentos en solo 1 minuto!
— La Vuelta (@lavuelta) August 27, 2022
It wasn’t just the captain’s band that was passed around the Ineos bus Saturday.
Any questions over leadership at Bora-Hansgrohe were settled as Hindley held the leading wheels while co-captain Sergio Higuita slid backward two more minutes and Wilco Kelderman toppled down the ranking to be left floundering more than five minutes off the pace.
UAE Emirates’ outside challengers Ayuso and Almeida both finished 50 seconds back on Evenepoel to keep a darkhorse bid at the podium in Madrid in play, but their chase isn’t looking any easier.
Evenepoel, Roglič, and Mas have 13 more days of racing to keep poised for the final podium. A second severe summit finish Sunday and long time trial Tuesday will further show who might be in range of red in two weeks’ time.