Wout Poels tops a strong third Vuelta week
Throughout the third week of the Vuelta a España, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS has been racing aggressively. This performance was rewarded with a stage win for Wout Poels on the penultimate stage of the race. Mikel Landa managed to move up to 5th on GC, and in the team classification, the team moved up to 2nd place thanks to its aggressive tactics.
At the Vuelta a España Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS had to wait for almost three weeks before it got to celebrate a stage win after having scored podium results at three earlier stages. This success was preceded by some serious work as the 20th stage featured more than 4000 vertical meters of aggregate climbing and no less than ten category 3 climbs with not a whole lot of flat sections in between. After an animated opening phase, a 31-rider breakaway went up the road, and Antonio Tiberi and Wout Poels managed to get into that group. Poels managed to drop his companions on the last climb of the day only to see four riders get back to him on the following descent. Thanks to a perfectly timed acceleration with 350 meters to go, Wout Poels managed to catch Remco Evenepoel by surprise and hold on to win the stage in Guadarrama.
By winning the longest stage of this year's Vuelta a España, Wout Poels managed to top a strong performance by Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS throughout the third week in particular. Back in July, the vastly experienced Dutchman has already won a tough mountain stage in the Tour de France. Poels was enthusiastic after his victory: "I feel like a bottle of good wine - the older I get, the better I get. Beating Remco Evenepoel after such a hard stage is great. In the finale, I first attacked on an uphill cobblestone section. On the final kilometre, I felt the other four riders slowing down, so I attacked the lead group from the last position and went full gas all the way to the finish. We have been riding a strong Vuelta as a team, but we were lacking a stage win. Getting that on the penultimate day is great."
With a 3rd place in stage 15, Santiago Buitrago had shown a first glimpse of what Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS was up to in the third week of the race before the second rest day. The day after that rest day saw a short stage with a steep final ascent. The day's early attackers were brought back before the final ascent to Bejes began. Deep in the finale Wout Poels managed to leave a group of GC contenders behind to cross the finish line in 3rd place. Stage 17 ended with the legendary Alto de l'Angliru climb. Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS came to the front of the main peloton on the penultimate climb to up the pace and eat into the lead of Remco Evenepoel, who got caught with about 5 kilometres to go. The riders in red, orange and black kept setting a hard pace until Team Jumbo Visma's trifecta struck back with 3 kilometers to go. Still, Mikel Landa crossed the finish line in 4th with Wout Poels in 5th and Santiago Buitrago in 8th.
The following stage saw another mountaintop finish at La Cruz de Linares. Early on, a breakaway of 14 riders went up the road. As no GC contenders made it into this group, it got a lot of leeway from the peloton and extended its lead to 10 minutes and more. Damiano Caruso was part of this group, but just like all others, he could not keep up with the acceleration of Remco Evenepoel. But Caruso found his rhythm again on the last climb and crossed the finish line in 2nd place, scoring another podium result for Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS. Stage 19 came down to a bunch sprint and thus had no impact on the overall standings of the race. With just the final stage to Madrid left to be ridden, Mikel Landa sits in 5th on GC, with Santiago Buitrago following in 10th. This puts the Colombian in 4th in the young riders' classification. And in the team classification, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS sits in 2nd.
78TH VUELTA A ESPAÑA
STAGE 20: MANZANARES EL REAL - GUADARRAMA, 207.8KM
1. Wout Poels, NED/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, in 4:59.29 hours
2. Remco Evenepoel, BEL, st
3. Pelayo Sanchez, ESP, st
STAGE 18: POLA DE ALLANDE - LA CRUZ DE LINARES, 178.9KM
1. Remco Evenepoel, BEL, in 4:47.37 hours
2. Damiano Caruso, ITA/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, + 4.44
3. Andreas Kron, DEN, + 5.10
STAGE 16: LIENCRES PLAYA - BEJES, 120.1KM
1. Jonas Vingegaard, DEN, in 3:38.23 hours
2. Finn Fisher-Black, NZL, + 0.43
3. Wout Poels, NED/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, + 0.49
TEAM CLASSIFICATION AFTER 20 STAGES:
1. Team Jumbo Visma, NED, in 222:28.29 hours
2. TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, BHR, + 22.07
3. Team Bora Hansgrohe, GER, + 34.12
Photos: Sprint Cycling Agency