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

0 Comments

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.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

Oleksandr Abramenko
Getty
0 Comments

Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Freestyle skiers in World Cup action on NBC Sports, Peacock

Ski Halfpipe
Getty
0 Comments

Olympic gold medalists David Wise and Alex Hall headline World Cup freestyle skiing and snowboarding stops in the U.S. this weekend, airing on NBC Sports and Peacock.

Wise, who last Sunday won his fifth X Games Aspen ski halfpipe title, led the qualifiers into the final at the Mammoth Mountain Grand Prix in California.

He’s joined in the 10-man final by U.S. Olympic teammates Aaron Blunck and Birk Irving. The women’s ski halfpipe final includes the top three from last week’s X Games — Brit Zoe Atkin, Canadian Rachael Karker and American Svea Irving. Olympic champion Eileen Gu of China is out after suffering a knee injury in an X Games training crash.

The ski slopestyle finals include the reigning men’s and women’s Olympic gold medalists — Hall, plus Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland.

The marquee snowboarders in Mammoth finals are Olympic big air silver medalist Julia Marino (slopestyle) and X Games silver medalist Maddie Mastro (halfpipe). Two-time Olympic champion Chloe Kim is taking the season off, and another double Olympic champion, Jamie Anderson, is pregnant.

Aerials and moguls skiers are competing in their lone U.S. World Cup stop in Park City, Utah.

The moguls fields including Olympic gold medalists Walter Wallberg of Sweden, Mikael Kingsbury of the U.S., Perrine Laffont of France and Jakara Anthony of Australia. Olympic silver medalist Jaelin Kauf is the standout American.

The aerials include every member of the U.S. team that took gold at last year’s Olympics — Ashley Caldwell, Chris Lillis and Justin Schoenefeld.

Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding World Cup Broadcast Schedule

Day Event Time (ET) Platform
Saturday Moguls 11 a.m. CNBC, Peacock
Ski Halfpipe 3 p.m. NBC, Peacock
Sunday Ski Slopestyle 12 p.m. CNBC, Peacock
Sun., Feb. 12 Aerials, Dual Moguls 2 p.m. NBC, Peacock
Snowboard Halfpipe 2 p.m. CNBC, Peacock

All NBC and CNBC coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!