Remco Evenepoel of the Quick-Step team retained his large overall lead in the Vuelta a Espana on Saturday’s stage 20 ahead of Sunday’s final-day promenade to Madrid.
Evenepoel wept in the arms of his sports director at the finish line and it is 44 years since any Belgian won a Grand Tour when Johan de Muynck won the Giro in 1978.
The 22-year-old Evenepoel took the leader’s red jersey on stage six on a foggy mountaintop in Asturias.
He then extended his lead by dominating the individual time-trial before nursing his lead over several mountains and then winning another key mountain stage.
Barring total disaster he will roll into Madrid to claim his first Grand Tour.
Quick Step team boss Patrick Lefevere said Evenepoel had been like a son to him since joining at 17
“I’m going to tell him thanks for joining us and going through all this together,” said Lefevere who stood by his rider through dark times after his fall from a bridge in 2021.
“He took his time to win one in the end,” said Lefevere of the fact Evenepoel hasnt won a three week Tour yet.
“The fall took a year out of his career.”
Evenepoel was equally delighted.
“I’m so happy to be the first guy to win a grand tour for Patrick as a CEO, for Belgium, for my country, for my teammates, for my parents for my fiance,” he said.
“Actually it’s an amazing year winning a monument (liege-Bastogne-Liege), winning San Sebastian again, winning two stages here and the GC and then getting married in the winter.”
Evenepoel is one of the favourites to win the world championships in Australia next month.
Saturday’s 181km stage from Moralzarzal to the Puerto de Navacerrada mountaintop finish was won by Ineos Grenadier Richard Carapaz, for his third stage win on this race.
In the overall standings Movistar’s Enric Mas stayed second at 2min 07sec with Juan Ayuso of UAE Emirates third at 5min 56sec. The pair should round out the podium in Madrid.
The King of the Mountains climbing points category will also go to Carapaz, who was racing in Ineos colours for the last time.
Evenepoel is also set to win the best under-25’s white jersey while the green sprint jersey will be settled in Madrid with Denmark’s Mads Pedersen in a huge lead huge lead.