Remco Evenepoel to win Vuelta a Espana, end Belgian drought in Grand Tours

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Remco Evenepoel all but clinched his first Grand Tour title on Saturday after the 22-year-old Belgian protected his lead in the Spanish Vuelta on the three-week race’s final competitive stage.

Well-supported by his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team, Evenepoel had little trouble ensuring that Enric Mas and the Spaniard’s Movistar team were never able to challenge the two-minute lead he took into the 20th stage in mountains just north of Madrid, where the race ends on Sunday.

Evenepoel burst into tears on crossing the finish line, where he was embraced by his teammates. He is set to become the first Belgian to win a Grand Tour since 1978 when Johan De Muynck won the Giro d’Italia.

The final stage is a flat 60-mile ride from Las Rozas to a finish in Spain’s capital when custom dictates that no rider challenges the pacesetter. While the team leaders will use it to enjoy the end of the grueling event, the sprinters will vie for the stage win.

Evenepoel said that he had finally “delivered” after previous disappointment.

“I don’t know what’s going through my head and my body right now. It’s amazing. All the critics and the bad comments I received after last year, I think I finally delivered and answered with my pedals,” Evenepoel said. “I’ve been working so hard to come here in the best shape possible. To now win this Vuelta is just amazing. It’s actually the first Grand Tour I start healthy.

“(This is) for Belgium, for my teammates, my family, my fiancee… I have been away so many weeks and months, it is for them.”

Evenepoel had a difficult 2021, abandoning the Giro d’Italia after a crash in the 17th stage, and facing criticism from Eddy Merckx over what the Belgian great said was his unwillingness to ride for the team. But Evenepoel has rebounded this year, also winning the San Sebastián Classic for a second time in June. His first race win as a professional came at age 19 when he won the single-day race in northern Spain.

Richard Carapaz won the 112-mile stage from Moralzarzal to Puerto de Navacerrada that included three category-one climbs in 4 hours, 41 minutes. It was the third stage win of this Vuelta for Carapaz. The Olympic gold medalist and the 2019 Giro winner also won the 12th and 14th stages.

Evenepoel has held the red jersey since taking the lead in the sixth stage. His most dangerous challenger was three-time defending champion Primoz Roglic, who was gaining ground until he crashed earlier this week and had to withdraw from the race.

That left Mas as his only real threat over the final days, but the Spaniard was unable to close the gap.

Mas made his last attempt to break Evenepoel on the fourth climb up the category-one Puerta de la Morcuera after Movistar had set a hard pace and shed Evenepoel of his teammates. But Evenepoel latched onto his wheel and that was the end of Mas’ hopes. The Spaniard only shaved two seconds off Evenepoel’s advantage, which stands at 2 minutes, 5 seconds.

Mas is set to finish second in the overall classification with Juan Ayuso, a 19-year-old rider of UAE Team Emirates, completing the podium.

“Today I responded with the legs. I didn’t think about winning the stage, I just wanted to win the general classification,” Evenepoel said. “I only had to follow, to control and believe in my power. In the end the race was super hard but we did really well. It’s the most beautiful day of my life.”

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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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