Defending Vuelta a España champion Remco Evenepoel is back in the leader's red jersey after winning stage three of the 2023 edition, but the Belgian has admitted that he may give up the maillot rojo in the coming days.
Evenepoel won a summit finish sprint in Arinsal in Andorra on Monday, beating Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard and a select group of other GC favourites by one second.
It means that the Soudal Quick-Step rider, 23, has a five second lead over Movistar's Enric Mas at the top of the general classification standings, with Vingegaard 31 seconds adrift in fourth. Groupama-FDJ's 20-year-old Lenny Martinez is in third position, 11 seconds back from Evenepoel.
Two probable sprint stages now follow before the sixth day in the race takes the peloton up to the Javalambre ski station in Teruel, where another GC fight is expected.
Asked whether he would like another team to take on the responsibility of leading the race in the opening week, Evenepoel said: "To who? It must be to someone we don't think can win [overall]. It's up to the team management to decide. I have every confidence in them and in my teammates."
He added: "We can't help it [being in red]. The race decides whether you take back the jersey or not. I had to go for the win today. Whether we defend this? Tomorrow is a sprinter's day - then we'll see."
Soudal Quick-Step's sports director Klaas Lodewyck was open to the idea. "What do we do with the jersey now? First, we enjoy it, and then we put our heads together and we'll see what comes tomorrow."
"It was a super good day," Evenepoel reflected on the stage. "It was a very good sprint. It's nice that I beat the Tour winner. For myself and for the team it is clear that we do not always have to go all out and that we can also gamble."
"We were patient and didn't make any rash decisions. I climbed up the penultimate climb [the Coll d'Ordino] super well. And on the final climb I stayed in the wheels.
"I was patient. I knew that the last four kilometres were the toughest with a fast finish afterwards. [The plan] worked well, and also at altitude, so that's something new that I can tick off.
"I knew I had to attack first. I went very early, but I had a gap and continued. I really still had a lot of strength in my legs."
The only downside for Evenepoel was that immediately after crossing the line he crashed into a soigneur and cut open his face. "It's a special victory with a somersault," he laughed. "It could have been much worse but all's well that ends well.
"Only my head is still a bit cut open, but I don't have any injuries to my hip or anything. Hopefully I won't have any consequences."
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