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Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) climbed to an impressive victory on the queen stage of the Vuelta a España as the lone survivor from a large 29-man breakaway, after he held off the marauding efforts of Miguel Ángel López (Astana-Qasaqstan) and Enric Mas (Movistar).
The 22-year-old initially remained tucked away in the breakaway on the final climb’s steep opening slopes, watching Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) build a sizeable advantage over the remnants of the breakaway.
Arensman, however, paced his effort to perfection, caught and passed Soler 5km from the finish and crossed the line solo.
Behind him, the GC race also exploded as Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) lost time to his main rivals including Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), López and Mas, though he kept the red jersey.
“It’s still really hard to believe, it really has to sink in,” Arensman said at the finish. “I can’t believe it – the queen stage of the Vuelta, Sierra Nevada at altitude, everyone was talking about this stage. To be honest, I didn’t feel super good on the stage but apparently the others felt their legs even more. When I was alone, I had the coach Matt Winston on the radio. I was only thinking I’ve got to push 400 watts and it was enough and it’s unbelievable.
“It looked like [Soler] was waiting for me. I thought that Marc Soler is such a great rider and I don’t know if I can take him on but then I accelerated on the steeper parts and he cracked and I thought everybody is really on the limit and I maybe have something left so unbelievable.”
How it happened
The enormous 22.3km long climb at 7.9% up to the summit finish in Sierra Nevada loomed over the route of stage 15, providing the finale to a difficult day of climbing. After a rolling start filled with uncategorized climbs, the peloton tackled the category 3 Puerto del Castillo and the category 1 Alto del Purche, before the final obstacle of the day.
On this difficult terrain, a large 29-strong breakaway formed in the opening 20 kilometers, composed of some of the race’s strongest riders including Thymen Arensman (Team DSM), Jai Hindley (Bora Hansgrohe), Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Goubert), David De La Cruz (Astana-Qasaqstan), Richard Carapaz (Ineos-Grenadiers), Rigoberto Urán (EF-Education Easypost), Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Gino Mäder (Bahrain Victorious), Marc Soler (UAE-Team Emirates) and Lawson Craddock (BikeExchange-Jayco).
100km to go
— Team DSM (@TeamDSM) September 4, 2022
At the top of the Puerto del Castillo, Vine collected the three points available in the mountains classification, further extending his lead in that competition.
On the plateau after this climb, the race remained relatively calm until Craddock attacked the breakaway, opening up a 1:30 advantage over the group before the Alto del Purche. Back in the peloton, meanwhile, AG2R-Citroën took over the pace-setting duties, chipping away at the breakaway’s lead so that it was less than three and a half minutes as the race hit the Alto del Purche.
Jumbo-Visma moved to the front too on the climb’s lower slopes, ripped the peloton apart alongside AG2R, and separated Evenepoel from his teammates other than those who had made it into the breakaway.
Out front, Vine set off in pursuit of Craddock and once again picked up the maximum ten points at the summit. This duo remained out front until they were swallowed up by the breakaway 25 kilometers from the finish.
️ ¡ !
— La Vuelta (@lavuelta) September 4, 2022
As the breakaway began the day’s final climb Soler attacked, as did Jumbo-Visma from the peloton three minutes later in almost the same place. Jumbo-Visma’s pace split the peloton, creating a select group of GC contenders that dispatched with Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) but didn’t seem to trouble Evenepoel.
Once his teammates had been exhausted, Roglič himself set the pace, but once he swung off the front, Evenepoel sensed a moment of weakness and resumed his place at the front of the group, guiding the overall favorites up the long climb until López and Mas attacked 8km from the finish and quickly opened up a 30 second gap over the red jersey.
In the battle for the stage victory, meanwhile, Arensman caught and passed Soler to become the new cabeza de carrera – a status he held until the finish.
Behind Arensman, Evenepoel cracked as he reached the summit, losing time to his closest rival Roglič for the second consecutive day, though he remains in the red jersey with a 1:34 lead over the Slovenian, and a 2:01 buffer over Mas in third place.
Results will be available once stage has completed.