Remco Evenepoel: The Vuelta a España GC fight will ‘explode’ on stage 6 summit finish

The riders will tackle the first major mountain stage of this year's race with two more to come at the weekend.

Photo: David Stockman/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images

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Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) is expecting the Vuelta a España general classification battle to light up on the stage 6 summit finish up the Ascensión al Pico Jano.

Thursday’s stage is the first of three major mountain days that the peloton must tackle in the opening week of the Vuelta. The 181.2km stage takes the riders over two categorized climbs before the ride up the 12.6km final climb.

Compared to some of the more brutal climbs to come at the Vuelta, the ascent has a fairly reasonable 6.5 percent average with two peaks of 12 percent. Evenepoel is expecting the breakaway to claim the win, but that there will still be some fireworks in the GC bunch.

“For the stage, I think it looks like a breakaway stage again. It depends on how FDJ controls the break and if there is not a dangerous guy in the front for the red jersey, I think they will let it go. I think the GC race will explode on the last climb,” Evenepoel told reporters at the start of stage 6.

“Yesterday evening, I was looking a bit on Veloviewer, the website we all use, just looking a bit into the gradients and the run-in. It looks like a really nice regular climb so I think it will be the first GC test, and I hope to not lose any time again. It’s always better to take a bit of time, like Primož said, but obviously, it’s not going to be easy to take time on him.”

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This weekend will see the riders take on some more traditional Vuelta a España stages with the brutally steep finales on the Colláu Fancuaya and Les Praeres on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Though Evenepoel is expecting the GC riders to cross swords Thursday, he thinks that some will try not to show all their cards ahead of the weekend.

It ultimately depends on how the stages are ridden.

“I think for this week, the most tricky stage is Saturday so there still might be a bit of hide and seek for today. But, I think every mountain finish is always a bit looking to the favorites but, of course, we have to see the race situation,” he said. “If there is a guy on four or five minutes in the breakaway then they won’t let it go too far then it’s more leading to a GC race. We have to wait until the break is gone and then we will decide.”

Evenepoel is currently nestled in ninth place overall at 27 seconds behind defending champion Primož Roglič. His time losses have come through the opening team time trial and the bonus seconds Roglič earned for winning on stage 4.

He’s been where he needs to be so far, but the stage 6 summit finish will provide the first real comparison between the GC riders.

“So far, good, but then we haven’t really raced yet for the GC guys,” he said. “Definitely, there have been two really fast days. Yesterday was almost two hours full gas racing for the breakaway, I am happy it was quite a big road so that I could still have the benefit of a slipstream.

“It’s stage 6 now, with some hard stages and some hot weather conditions so the legs will soon start to feel a bit sore for everybody. I just hope that the sun is not too hot for me today.”

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