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‘History for my team, my country and myself’ - Evenepoel celebrates Vuelta victory in Madrid

Team Quick Steps Belgian rider Remco Evenepoel celebrates on the podium wearing the overall leaders red jersey after the 21st and last stage of the 2022 La Vuelta cycling tour of Spain a 967km race from Las Rozas de Madrid to Madrid on September 11 2022 Belgian rider Remco Evenepoel claimed his first Grand Tour victory in the Vuelta a Espana in Madrid The 22yearold dominated the threeweek race taking victory after the 21st and final stage won by Colombian Juan Sebastian Molano Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO AFP Photo by OSCAR DEL POZOAFP via Getty Images
Evenepoel is the first Belgian winner of the Vuelta a España since 1977 (Image credit: Getty Images)

With whoops, chants, and victory hugs, Remco Evenepoel and QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl made no attempt to hide their delight on Sunday evening in Madrid as the Belgian brought a landmark victory in the Vuelta a Espana safely home. 

40th in an uneventful last stage that culminated in a bunch sprint won by Juan Sebastian Molano (UAE Team Emirates), no sooner had Evenepoel crossed the line than he and his five remaining teammates had a group hug in the middle of the Paseo de la Castellana as the media massed around them.

All across the broad Madrid boulevard on a very warm Sunday evening, riders exchanged fistbumps and high fives as they celebrated the end of the 2022 Vuelta a Espana. But with dozens of Belgian fans waving their country’s national flag from the nearby pavements, and all of them cheering Evenepoel to the rooftops, there was no doubt who was getting the loudest support of all.

One of the more famous spectators on Sunday who mingled the soigneurs and management at the finish line was the Belgian goalkeeper for the Real Madrid football team, Thibaut Courtois.

Then after it was time for Evenepoel to step up to the podium to receive his last red jersey of the race, and then doff his cap to hear the Belgian national anthem ring out across the Spanish capital.

“Now we can really enjoy it,” Evenepoel told Spanish TV after the stage.

“I did not have much time to think during the stage because it was really a technical course and it was getting more and more nervous every lap. So it was not that nice anymore at the end. But I’m happy we survived and we are here now.”

As the first Grand Tour winner for cycling-mad Belgium since 1978, Evenepoel described his victory as “history for my team, my country, and myself, I think we can be proud of what we’ve done in the last three weeks.”

In his victory speech, Evenepoel also made a point of thanking his teammates again in the winner’s speech as well as his two rivals on the final podium, Enric Mas (Movistar) and Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) for a good race. 

Before ending his speech, Evenepoel finally hinted that he might return to the Vuelta in 2023. But what is certain is he will now catch a flight on Monday to Australia for his next challenge, the World Championships.

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