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Vuelta a Espana

Remco Evenepoel profits from podium battle at Vuelta a España: ‘When Almeida attacked it was perfect’

Evenepoel keeps control of the chaos as fight for third unfurls in final of stage 17 on Wednesday.

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TRUJILLO, Spain (VN) – Remco Evenepoel marked only the right wheels Wednesday.

Evenepoel patrolled behind red jersey rival Enric Mas with confident canny while he let podium contender João Almeida run free in an explosive final to stage 17 of the Vuelta a España.

“When Almeida attacked it was perfect for me,” an ever-confident Evenepoel said after the stage.

“You see, there’s the fight for GC behind me. [Miguel Ángel] López started to pace the group because he doesn’t want Almeida to get too far. That’s a game I need to play in the coming days, and also tomorrow.”

Also read: Mas vows to go down swinging at Vuelta a España: ‘We have to try something’

The abandon of Primož Roglič on Wednesday morning meant Mas is Evenepoel’s closest threat at 2:01 behind. A closely knotted group of four fills the fight for third-place and is some way from climbing one step higher on the podium.

Currently sixth at seven minutes back, Almeida’s acceleration on the diesel climb to Monasterio de Tentudía on Wednesday forced fifth-place López to follow — and saw Evenpoel hitch a ride that helped keep a flurry of attacks from Mas under control.

“Enric [Mas] made my day difficult. It was not so easy to follow his attack, the first move he made was quite a hard one, Evenepoel said. “Then I knew Almeida was further down in the GC so I could give him some space. It was a very nice move and a brave move from him.”

Roglič’s exit ‘doesn’t make it easier’

Evenepoel will happily watch the podium fight from Mas’ back wheel all the way to Madrid.

With Roglič out of the race, Evenepoel’s job got a lot easier Wednesday morning. The Slovenian’s rocketing sprint and strong squad mounted a fierce retaliation in the Andalucian mountains last weekend to the “Remco rampage”.

But Evenepoel said that Roglič’s exit doesn’t change a thing as he closes down on a historic Belgian GC victory.

Mas won’t make do with second-place, and Almeida, López, Juan Ayuso, and Carlos Rodríguez are all hunting a coveted, palmàres-topping, step of a grand tour podium.

‘I think the race is as hard to control as it was with Primož,” Evenepoel said after the stage Wednesday.

“But of course, on a finish like this, Primož is a really explosive guy. He can go in the last 500 meters and take 10 or 15 seconds, so I think now there is less danger from attacks like this because Enric is a bit less explosive than Primož.

“I think that’s the main difference but that doesn’t make it easier, not at all.”

Evenepoel made it look pretty easy on the final climb to Monasterio de Tentudía.