Belgian Remco Evenepoel claimed the Vuelta a Espana title on Sunday for his first Grand Tour triumph, capping a dominant three weeks with one last push on the final stage from Las Rozas to Madrid that was won by Juan Sebastian Molano.
The 22-year-old had all but confirmed victory after holding off his nearest rival Enric Mas on Saturday’s stage 20 and finished the job with ease as he rolled into the Spanish capital flanked by his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl teammates.
Movistar’s Mas settled for second place overall while UAE Team Emirates’ Juan Ayuso completed the podium.
Evenepoel is the first Belgian winner of a Grand Tour since Johan De Muynck at the 1978 Giro d’Italia and the youngest Vuelta champion since Angelino Soler in 1961.
Molano secured the stage win in a thrilling sprint finale, edging out Mads Pedersen of Trek-Segafredo and his UAE Team Emirates teammate Pascal Ackermann on the line.
But the day belonged to Evenepoel, who never relinquished the red jersey after taking the lead on stage six and looked favourite to capture the title after defending champion Primoz Roglic, who was steadily closing the gap, withdrew from the race before stage 17.
That left Mas as his sole challenger, but the Spaniard could not wipe out the deficit, despite a couple of spirited attacks in the final mountain stages.
Evenepoel abandoned the 2021 Giro following a crash on stage 17 and failed to medal at the Tokyo Olympics but bounced back strongly earlier this year with a win at the Clasica de San Sebastian before claiming two stages at the Vuelta.