Vuelta a España: Rui Costa claims first Grand Tour victory in a decade after stage 15 | Vuelta a España

Intermarche-Circus-Wanty’s Rui Costa won stage 15 of the Vuelta a España in a sprint finish on Sunday, while defending champion Remco Evenepoel failed in his valiant attempt to further recover from a collapse earlier this week.

Former road world champion Costa held off Lennard Kamna and Santiago Buitrago after the 158.5 kilometer ride from Pamplona to Lekunberri, while Evenepoel finished fourth.

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Costa won with a late tactical masterstroke as he slowed the pace and appeared to lull Buitrago and Kamna into a false sense of security before accelerating across the finish line to take his first Grand Tour victory since 2013.

“I believed in myself. The season started very well for me and now it is very important for me and the team to win a stage of the Vuelta. I am very, very happy,” said the Portuguese Costa, who won the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in southern Spain in February.

The German Kamna did well and came second. He overcame a crash in the final three kilometers and got back on his bike to overtake Colombian Buitrago.

“(Accidents like Kamna’s) happen in races,” Costa said. “We had done this downhill before and I saw he was going very fast, so I hit the brakes because I knew if we followed his pace we could crash. It’s a shame for him and then it was just a matter of playing for the stage win. It found my way and I’m very happy.”

Evenepoel, who took a great win on Saturday’s mountainous stage 14 after finishing 27 minutes off the pace on Friday’s climbs, rode an aggressive race and made it clear from the start that he intended to finish in the to climb back up the rankings.

The Belgian Soudal Quick Step rider attacked several times throughout the race and triggered a breakaway with just over 80km to go. In the last 15 kilometers he ran out of energy and was almost 30 seconds behind at times, but fought back with a desperate attempt and finished two seconds slower than the leading trio.

Evenepoel is now just over 16 minutes behind American Sepp Kuss, who retained the leader’s red jersey. Kuss’ Jumbo Visma teammates Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard are in second and third place in the overall standings.

Monday is a rest day at the Vuelta. Stage 16 on Tuesday is a 120.5km ride from Liencres Playa to Bejes, which is mostly flat but ends with a steep climb.

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