Vingegaard takes emotional Vuelta stage win for “best friend” Van Hooydonck | Vuelta a España

Jonas Vingegaard pulled away from the uphill finish to win stage 16 on an emotional day at the Vuelta a España.

Vingegaard dedicated his victory to his “best friend” and teammate Nathan van Hooydonck, who was injured in a car accident in the Netherlands on Tuesday.

“I’m just happy to have won today,” said the Dane afterwards. “We received terrible news this morning. I wanted to win today for my best friend.” Vingegaard and his Hungarian teammate Attila Valter both told Eurosport that Van Hooydonck was “awake” in hospital.

“Thankfully there is now good news about his condition. It’s a big relief for me and the team and we hope he recovers soon,” added Vingegaard. Valter reported that the Jumbo Visma riders received the message via the team radio shortly before the steep final climb to Bejes.

Vingegaard, who wants to add the Vuelta to this year’s Tour de France title, prevailed with just under four kilometers left in the stage. He finished 43 seconds ahead of Finn Fisher-Black (UAE Team Emirates) and Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) another six seconds behind.

After counting on the unwavering support of teammate Van Hooydonck on his way to his second Tour title of the year, Vingegaard appeared emotional after crossing the finish line. When asked what his victory meant for the entire Vuelta race, Vingegaard said: “I just want to enjoy this moment and (not) think about it.”

Leader Sepp Kuss, also from Jumbo-Visma, had problems on the final climb and finished more than a minute behind Vingegaard. The American now leads by just 29 seconds, with Primoz Roglic completing a jumbo-Visma podium, 1 minute and 33 seconds behind Kuss and overtaken by Vingegaard in second place.

Sepp Kuss remains in the red jersey, but his lead in the overall standings shrank to 29 seconds. Photo: Manuel Bruque/EPA

After Monday’s rest day, this was no gentle return to action. Although the stage from Liencres Playa to the steep finish was classified as flat, it was anything but relaxing. The pace was relentless over hilly terrain, with the peloton lagging behind a breakaway group that included Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck), who increased his overall score.

Jumbo-Visma’s pace ensured that the breakaway group was eventually caught up, and everyone was on their own on the 4.8km route to the finish with gradients of up to 15%. Any thought that Kuss might be led to Bejes by his teammates was dashed as Vingegaard climbed out of the saddle and charged up the slopes.

Wednesday’s stage ends at the infamous Angliru climb, where the 26-year-old will be the favorite to take the red jersey and move closer to the Tour-Vuelta double crown.

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