Remco Evenepoel all but clinched his first Grand Tour title on Saturday after the 22-year-old Belgian protected his lead in the Spanish Vuelta on the three-week race’s final competitive stage.
Well-supported by his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team, Evenepoel had little trouble ensuring that Enric Mas and the Spaniard’s Movistar team were never able to challenge the two-minute lead he took into the 20th stage in mountains just north of Madrid, where the race ends on Sunday.
Evenepoel burst into tears on crossing the finish line, where he was embraced by his teammates. He is set to become the first Belgian to win a Grand Tour since 1978 when Johan De Muynck won the Giro d’Italia.
The final stage is a flat 60-mile ride from Las Rozas to a finish in Spain’s capital when custom dictates that no rider challenges the pacesetter. While the team leaders will use it to enjoy the end of the grueling event, the sprinters will vie for the stage win.
Evenepoel said that he had finally “delivered” after previous disappointment.
“I don’t know what’s going through my head and my body right now. It’s amazing. All the critics and the bad comments I received after last year, I think I finally delivered and answered with my pedals,” Evenepoel said. “I’ve been working so hard to come here in the best shape possible. To now win this Vuelta is just amazing. It’s actually the first Grand Tour I start healthy.
“(This is) for Belgium, for my teammates, my family, my fiancee… I have been away so many weeks and months, it is for them.”
Evenepoel had a difficult 2021, abandoning the Giro d’Italia after a crash in the 17th stage, and facing criticism from Eddy Merckx over what the Belgian great said was his unwillingness to ride for the team. But Evenepoel has rebounded this year, also winning the San Sebastián Classic for a second time in June. His first race win as a professional came at age 19 when he won the single-day race in northern Spain.
Richard Carapaz won the 112-mile stage from Moralzarzal to Puerto de Navacerrada that included three category-one climbs in 4 hours, 41 minutes. It was the third stage win of this Vuelta for Carapaz. The Olympic gold medalist and the 2019 Giro winner also won the 12th and 14th stages.
Evenepoel has held the red jersey since taking the lead in the sixth stage. His most dangerous challenger was three-time defending champion Primoz Roglic, who was gaining ground until he crashed earlier this week and had to withdraw from the race.
That left Mas as his only real threat over the final days, but the Spaniard was unable to close the gap.
Mas made his last attempt to break Evenepoel on the fourth climb up the category-one Puerta de la Morcuera after Movistar had set a hard pace and shed Evenepoel of his teammates. But Evenepoel latched onto his wheel and that was the end of Mas’ hopes. The Spaniard only shaved two seconds off Evenepoel’s advantage, which stands at 2 minutes, 5 seconds.
Mas is set to finish second in the overall classification with Juan Ayuso, a 19-year-old rider of UAE Team Emirates, completing the podium.
“Today I responded with the legs. I didn’t think about winning the stage, I just wanted to win the general classification,” Evenepoel said. “I only had to follow, to control and believe in my power. In the end the race was super hard but we did really well. It’s the most beautiful day of my life.”
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“Chasing Gold: Paris 2024,” a monthly show featuring Olympic and Paralympic sports and looking ahead to the Games in two years, premieres Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC and will be available the next day on Peacock.
Mike Tirico and Maria Taylor host the hour show, immersing viewers into the worlds of Olympic and Paralympic athletes on the road to the 2024 Paris Games. Episodes will feature storytelling and enhanced looks at recent competition.
The first episode profiles Paris, which will host the Olympics for the third time and the Paralympics for the first time, and some of its landmarks that will double as competition venues: the Eiffel Tower area, Versailles and Roland Garros, as well as the Opening Ceremony along the Seine River.
The first show will also put into greater context the recently concluded world championships in swimming and track and field and national championships in gymnastics. It includes an interview with Noah Lyles, who broke Michael Johnson‘s American 200m record at track worlds, with Johnson joining the interview in a surprise.
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Get ready for the Games!🇫🇷🥇
Chasing Gold: Paris 2024 is a new show hosted by @miketirico and @MariaTaylor that will show the worlds of Olympic and Paralympic athletes on their road to @Paris2024.
Watch the premiere this Sunday, 9/18 at 2:30 p.m. ET on @nbc & @peacockTV.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) September 14, 2022

Olympian Kayla Miracle earned the first U.S. medal of the world wrestling championships, silver in the women’s 62kg freestyle division.
Japan’s Nonoka Ozaki beat Miracle 10-0 by technical fall in Tuesday’s final in Belgrade. Miracle, 26, has now won back-to-back world championships silver medals after losing her opening match at the Tokyo Games.
Ozaki earned her first world title, one month after winning a world junior title.
Miracle competed one month after becoming the last wrestler to make the U.S. team for worlds. On Aug. 12, she came back in the deciding match of what she called a “tough-as-hell” best-of-three series with Jennifer Rogers at a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, high school gym to earn her spot. Miracle was granted a two-month delay of the world championships qualifier due to a knee injury.
“After my knee injury, I couldn’t even get in my stance,” she said Tuesday. “I’ve shown myself that I’m tough, like I can get through a lot of stuff emotionally, physically.”
Earlier Tuesday, American Dominique Parrish made Wednesday’s 53kg final in her senior worlds debut. Parrish, 25, was the No. 7 seed in a field lacking all three Olympic medalists and 2021 World champion Akari Fujinami of Japan, the 18-year-old phenom who withdrew last week due to a foot injury.
Sarah Hildebrandt, the Tokyo Olympic 50kg bronze medalist, lost in the semifinals to Mongolian Dolgorjavyn Otgonjargal 6-2. Hildebrandt will wrestle for bronze, potentially her third career world medal, on Wednesday.
Mallory Velte wrestles for bronze on Wednesday in the non-Olympic 65kg class after a 2-0 defeat to top seed Miwa Morikawa of Japan.
Men’s Greco-Roman competition concluded Tuesday with the U.S. finishing with zero medals.
All of the Olympic gold medalists on the U.S. team — Helen MaroulisTamyra Mensah-StockJordan BurroughsKyle Snyder and David Taylor — wrestle later this week.
Wrestlers from Belarus and Russia are banned due to the war in Ukraine. Russian wrestlers won the most medals at the 2021 World Championships (18) and were second to the Americans with eight medals at the Tokyo Games.
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