Redemption for Evenepoel with superb Vuelta stage win


Defending champion Remco Evenepoel has bounced back from his Vuelta a Espana meltdown the day before in the Pyrenees to take a superb victory on the mountainous 14th stage to the ski resort of Larra-Belagua.

The Belgian rider's general classification hopes may be over after shipping 27 minutes on Friday's brutal climbs, but he redeemed himself in style 24 hours later to hold off Romain Bardet after the pair had broken away from an escape group on the Col Hourcere.

France's Bardet (DSM-Firmenich) stayed on the wheel of Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) for the first half of the 9.5km climb to the finish but had no answer when the Belgian poured on the power with 3.5km remaining to win by more than a minute.

Evenepoel's masterclass on the 156.5km route from Sauveterre-de-Bearn spanning the France-Spain border put him in firm control of the king of the mountains standings as he scooped up stacks of points by winning each of the day's four categorised ascents.

The charismatic 23-year-old was the picture of emotion after crossing the line with his arms aloft, fighting back tears as he perhaps reflected on what might have been but for Friday's collapse.

Back in the peloton, the battle for the red jersey -- now looking like being between Jumbo-Visma's powerhouse trio Sepp Kuss, Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard -- was unchanged.

American Kuss retained the red jersey and his one minute 37 seconds advantage over three-times Vuelta winner Roglic while Vingegaard is 1:44 adrift.

The next best-placed in the standings is Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) who is 2:37 back on Kuss.

Evenepoel's horror show on Friday was completely unexpected but the way he bounced back was more predictable.

From the beginning of the stage he was in every attack and once the escape group became established it was clear he was the boss -- making a tough day look like a breeze.

"Yesterday was a very difficult day and also the evening with a lot of negative thoughts in my head," Evenepoel said.

"Today I just woke up and thought, 'Go for it and make the best of it'. I did a recon of this stage as I knew it would be important for the GC, and I knew perfectly how the climbs were, how hard they were.

"It was a super tough stage but really nice to take my second stage win. I think I can be very proud of this answer after yesterday."

Groupama-FDJ's Michael Storer remains the top Australian on the GC after an impressive effort to finish fifth on the stage, 7:24 down on Evenepoel. He's now 36th overall and remains second in the King of the Mountains standings.

Sunday's stage is a hilly route from Pamplona to Lekunberri.