Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) claimed a maiden Vuelta a España stage win on Thursday, climbing fastest to the summit of Peñas Blancas on stage 12.
The Ecuadorian, who came second overall in 2020, launched his race-winning move inside the final 2km of the 19km ascent, distancing Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the finale.
The day's racing was characterised by a 32-rider breakaway, which suffered splits at the hands of Bora-Hansgrohe on the final climb. Though out of the running for the red jersey, Carapaz proved the strongest of the escapees, taking his second road victory of the season.
Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) hit the tarmac with 45km to go, but comfortably withstood late attacks from his rivals to keep his grip on the race lead.
How it happened
Stage 12 left Salobreña on flat roads, traversing the province of Málaga en route to the category-one ascent of Peñas Blancas.
A fast start to the day made the battle for the breakaway difficult. After an hour of racing, a 32-man group established, stretching out an advantage in excess of seven minutes. Notable escapees included Carapaz, Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) and Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck), the latter having already tasted victory twice in this year’s edition of the race.
With 66km to go, Samuele Battistella (Astana Qazaqstan) took his chance to wriggle free from the crowded front group. The Italian chose an uncategorised climb as his launchpad, attacking solo through the scorched Andalusian hills in search of his first WorldTour win.
The first flash of drama came 45km from the line when red jersey wearer Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) slid out on a bend, having seemingly misjudged his line. The Belgian rose to his feet, dusted the gravel from his palms and calmly rode back into the peloton. Though the damage was mostly superficial - ripped shorts and a bloody knee - the crash served as a reminder that fortunes can flip in a split second at a Grand Tour.
Up ahead, Battistella’s lone foray came to an end when he was reeled in on the outskirts of Marbella. The gap to the breakaway widened to over 11 minutes, with Kelderman climbing onto the virtual podium as things stood on the road.
On the lower slopes of Peñas Blancas, the 32-man group began to thin out. Alpecin Deceuninck set a lively pace, before Bora-Hansgrohe took over with Matteo Fabbro. Barely halfway through the climb, the breakaway had halved in size.
Inside the final 5km, Élie Gesbert (Arkéa Samsic) lit the first firework in the front group. The Frenchman’s attack claimed a further few victims, with Soler and Vine struggling to hold on. Behind, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) found himself with no teammates in the GC group.
The attacks multiplied as the summit drew closer. Carapaz went clear under the 2km to go banner, leaving Kelderman in his wake in what would prove to be the race-winning move. The Ecuadorian stomped down on the pedals, punching his handlebars triumphantly when he realised the win was inevitable.
Though the race had been won, the GC contenders continued to joust further down climb. Enric Mas (Movistar) tried his luck, but neither he nor his compatriot Carlos Rodríguez (Ineos Grenadiers) could shake off Evenepoel. As if to prove his dominance, the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider sprinted ahead of his rivals to finish first behind the escapees.
The top five went unchanged in the overall standings, with Evenepoel maintaining his 2 minutes and 41 seconds lead over Roglič.
Vuelta a España 2022, stage 12: Salobreña to Peñas Blancas
1. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, in 4-38-26
2. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 9s
3. Marc Soler (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 24s
4. Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 26s
5. Marco Brenner (Ger) Team DSM, at 34s
6. Élie Gesbert (Fra) Arkéa Samsic, at 56s
7. Jay Vine (Aus) Alpecin-Deceuninck, at 1-12
8. Carl Fredrik Hagen (Nor) Israel-Premier Tech, at 1-23
9. James Shaw (GBr) EF Education-EasyPost, at 3-04
10. Matteo Fabbro (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 3-17
General classification after stage 12
1. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, in 39-39-04
2. Primož Roglič (Svn) Jumbo-Visma, at 2-41
3. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 3-03
4. Carlos Rodríguez (Esp) Ineos Grenadiers, at 3-55
5. Juan Ayuso (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 4-53
6. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 6-28
7. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana Qazaqstan, at 6-56
8. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 7-18
9. Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 8-00
10. Tao Geoghegan Hart (Gbr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 8-05
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