PENAS BLANCAS, Spain: Richard Carapaz of Ineos Grenadiers won stage 12 of the Vuelta a Espana on Thursday after attacking from a small group of riders on a long-range escape.
Race leader Remco Evenepoel was forced wide by a motorbike at a corner 45km from home, causing him to suffer a painful fall.
“I’m okay, it’s nothing serious, I’ve been through far worse before,” said Evenepoel, who missed a year after falling into a ravine during the Tour of Lombardy in August 2020.
His slip came a day after Evenepoel lost teammate Julian Alaphilippe to a fall, with team boss Patrick Lefevere saying the Frenchman may now miss the world championships.
“He’ll be back on a bike in two weeks, which might be a bit too fine a margin for the worlds,” said Lefevere, with the championships to start in Wollongong, Australia on Sept. 18.
But the 22-year-old Belgian Evenepoel picked himself up and eventually led a group containing the top five in the overall standings to the summit finish near the Costa del Sol.
That maintained his 2min 41sec advantage over defending champion Primoz Roglic.
Three Spaniards round out the top five, with Enric Mas of Movistar at 3min 03sec, local man Carlos Rodriguez at 4min 06sec and Juan Ayuso at 4min 53sec.
The stage covered 192.7km from the coast near Almunecar, where Rodriguez grew up.
Australian Jay Vine leads the mountain points standings and wore a polka dot shirt and socks on Thursday and even had a polka dot trim on his shorts and helmet.
Denmark’s Mads Pedersen leads the sprint points race and will have a chance to rack up points on Friday during a flat run from Ronda to Montilla.
A COVID-19 clampdown was imposed on the Vuelta, with just 147 riders finishing Thursday from the original 184.
Riders will now be afforded better protection from contact with fans and the media.
Only 135 riders finished this year’s Tour de France, with 17 Covid cases of the 41 riders who failed to complete the course.
Roglic’s team Jumbo introduced state-of-the-art COVID air filters in their bedrooms, while nearly all teams banned handshakes, high-fives and selfies.