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Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta a España stage 20: Clément Champoussin attacks to glory as Primož Roglič defends red

Breakaway rider Clément Champoussin survived an onslaught by the GC favorites to take his first WorldTour win.

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Frenchman Clément Champoussin (AG2R-Citroën) bolted to victory after a thrilling finale to Saturday’s 20th stage of the Vuelta a España to Castro de Herville, the final mountain stage of the race. It was Champoussin’s first career WorldTour victory, and it came against a diminished front group that contained the race’s GC favorites.

After being dropped inside the final 4km Champoussin fought back onto the group containing Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), Enric Mas (Movistar), Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers), and Jack Haig (Bahrain-Victorious) and then bolted to glory inside 2km to go. The Frenchman caught the GC riders by surprise, and cameras showed the favorites staring at each other as Champoussin accelerated into the climb’s final steep ramp.

“I was lucky with about 1km to go everyone was looking at each other, and because I am not a GC threat, I went for it,” Champoussin said. “The last kilometer was not that steep, and I could stay in front until the end.”

Champoussin then rocked and rolled on his bicycle up the painful final pitch, grimacing with each pedal stroke. Finish line cameras showed him nearly falling off his bicycle from exhaustion after crossing the line.

Champoussin was part of a massive 16-rider breakaway that got clear early in the stage and built a 15-minute advantage on the peloton. As the gap quickly came down during the mountain stage’s second half, Champoussin survived the tempo and attacks alongside eight others. The breakaway was then fractured after Ryan Gibbons (UAE-Team Emirates) attacked and headed to the final climb solo.

As the GC group closed in Champoussin, Michael Storer (Team DSM), and Mikel Bizkarra (Euskaltel-Euskadi) remained from the original group, and the trio eventually were absorbed by the front group of GC riders up the final ascent.

After finishing, Champoussin thanked his teammates Liliane Calmejane and Stan Dewulf, who were present with him in the day’s long breakaway.

“It’s a little bit of a surprise because I’ve had my ups and downs during this Vuelta,” he said. “Yesterday I did not feel very good at all. Today, we were in the group with three of us, with Calmejane and Dewulf, and they helped me all day. I could not let them down.”

Behind, race leader Primož Roglič fended off a flurry of attacks from Yates and Mas on the final climb to secure his hold on the red jersey. The battle on the final climb came after Ineos Grenadiers split the front group into pieces on the penultimate climb.

“It was a hard one again, the whole was hard,” Roglič said. “We did our tempo, then Ineos did a hard one and the race exploded. I had the legs and I could stayed with the best ones.”

The thrilling finale came on a stage that will long be remembered for the dramatics inside the Movistar team. The team’s Colombian star Miguel Angel López, who came into the day 3rd in GC, stepped off his bicycle at the base of the final climb and refused to continue riding. The moment came after López was distanced from the GC group and saw his 3rd place on GC evaporate.

Colombian star Egan Bernal also saw his run at the red jersey come to an end after being dropped earlier in the day. Berrnal struggled to keep pace and lost nearly 7 minutes to the lead group, slipping down to 7th place in the overall standings.

The two disasters for the Colombian stars created a reshuffling in the GC standings. Haig stepped into third place on GC; Yates leapfrogged two spots into 4th place overall, and Gino Mäder of Bahrain-Victorious jumped from 8th place on GC into 5th place heading into the final ITT.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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