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Evenepoel fends off rivals to win Burgos overall

Sosa wins mountaintop finale to conclude first major stage race in COVID era.

Three time’s a charm for Remco Evenepoel.

The Deceuninck-Quick-Step star fended off rivals in Saturday’s mountaintop finale in stage 5 to secure overall victory at the Vuelta a Burgos.

With the win, Evenepoel wins his third stage race overall title in what’s been a very strange 2020 racing season. He also won the Vuelta a San Juan and the Volta ao Algarve before the coronavirus shut down the racing calendar in March.

“It was mission accomplished,” Evenepoel said. “It was really hard, and the altitude is not my advantage. I managed to distance a lot of GC guys and I kept Landa in my vision. It was a perfect day. I had to suffer and fight hard, it was harder than it was two days ago. It was my job to keep the jersey and I did it, so it was perfect.”

Ivan Sosa (Team Ineos) won the stage for the third year in a row, but unlike the past two years when the Colombian won, it was Evenepoel, crossing the line third, to claim the overall title.

Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Merida) tried in vain to shake Evenepoel, and took consolation with second in the stage and second overall in cycling’s first major stage race since Paris-Nice in March.

“I knew the climb very well and I knew I had to wait until the final ramp. I was at the limit, and everything turned out well,” Sosa said. “We’re all happy that we’re back to racing with this situation. We’re happy to be back to give the spectacular. I wanted to win the overall again, but this victory is very satisfying, and we’ll keep working for our future goals.”

The fifth and final stage was the final hurdle for Evenepoel, who won emphatically in Thursday’s summit finale to take control of the overall lead. The Belgian phenomenon started with an 18-second lead to George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) and 32 seconds to Landa.

An early breakaway was reeled in under pressure from the GC favorites in the final climb at the Lagunas de Neila, the emblematic climb of the Burgos tour. Fans wearing face masks lined the climb high in the Sierra de la Demanda.

Landa opened things up with a surge with about 4km to go on the final climb, with Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) marking the wheel. Kuss kept applying the pressure, trimming the lead group to less than a dozen riders, but when Bennett struggled, Landa attacked again. The second surge saw Landa open a gap to several key chasers, including Evenepoel, Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) and Sosa, who later formed a leading quartet.

With about 2.3km to go, Landa accelerated again on ramps at 10 percent, gapping Chaves with Evenepoel and Sosa marking his wheel.

Evenepoel took over the pace in the closing two kilometers, reconfirming he can climb with the best in longer, more measured climbs. With a quick glance over his shoulder, Evenepoel changed the rhythm to drop everyone. Landa and Sosa weren’t giving up that easily, and the trio hit the red flag to battle for the stage win.

Sosa, who started more than 7 minutes in arrears, jumped with 600m to go, and Evenepoel suffered at first to match the chase from Landa, but crossed the line a few seconds behind Landa to secure the overall victory. Landa ended up second at 30 seconds adrift, with Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), who surged in the final climb to finish fourth on the stage, hit the podium with third at 1:12 back after starting the stage fifth overall.

“Sosa made a good attack and I could not respond, and the stage win slipped away from me,” Landa said. “Personally, I had very good sensations this week. To return to the competition after such a long time away generates some doubts, so it’s good to have a good result here. There are some young guys coming up behind us, so I need to take advantage of the chances to win when I can. Remco is a very complete rider, very aggressive, and he can attack in any type of terrain.”

Racing in Spain continues this weekend with the Circuito de Getxo in Spain’s Basque Country on Sunday.

GC top 3

  1. Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick Step)
  2. Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren)
  3. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step)

Stage top 3

  1. Ivan Sosa (Ineos)
  2. Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren)
  3. Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick Step)