Damiano Caruso placed second on stage 18 at La Vuelta yesterday, finishing behind the favourite from the 14-man breakaway, Remco Evenepoel (Soudal – QuickStep).
With the race taking on the final climb Puerto de la Cruz de Linares twice, at the foot, the break was afforded over a 10-minute gap. On the first round of the category one climb, Evenepoel made his move, with Caruso and Max Poole (DSM) slowly losing the wheel of the stage winner, ultimately leaving it to a fight for second place. Caruso, who was also initially gapped by Poole, was able to get back to the DSM rider and drop Poole to place second.
Caruso said: “Today for sure was hard. Everybody knew that Remco Evenepoel was the strongest in the breakaway, and he did show us that he was the strongest, so he deserved the victory. For me, second place means a lot behind a champion like him, so I’m satisfied, I’m happy, I couldn’t do more. Following Remco is like following a scooter. His pace is too much for me and probably for many other riders.”
While the GC race was still going on, Caruso said: “I think it’s a good day for us, now let’s wait for GC riders and see if it’s a great day.”
Meanwhile, as the GC battle unfolded a few kilometres down the climb, four TBV riders (Landa, Buitrago, Poels, and Tiberi) were setting a high pace with the rest of the GC group. Landa tried to attack several times in an attempt to gain 16 seconds to dislodge Juan Ayuso (Team UAE Emirates) from fourth in the GC, but Ayuso covered all the attacks and managed to gain three more seconds on Landa in GC. Ultimately, the GC stayed intact, with Landa still in fifth and Buitrago 10th.
Bahrain Victorious sports director Neil Stephens shared Damiano’s satisfaction: “It was a great effort from the team today. We were on a high from yesterday’s effort at the Angliru, and we really wanted to try to pull off the stage win that has been avoiding us up until now. We placed our best breakaway specialist on the move – Damiano Caruso, and he really worked all day trying to bring that stage win, but he was beaten by Remco Evenepoel.
“We are not really disappointed. We gave everything, but we were just not good enough for the day, so as far as we are concerned, we are satisfied. We tried our best, but we got beaten by a better man today, and Caruso’s second place is very satisfactory. With that, our second priority was to maintain or try to improve our GC today. Once we knew that Damiano would stay away, we set a pace in the final kilometres of the race, we placed Mikel and Santiago well in the climb, and we turned up the gas.
“Once again, the workers did a really good job setting a pace, and then Mikel Landa lit it up on the last climb in several attempts to break away from the other GC riders. That wasn’t to be. We maintain fifth and 10th on General Classification, so we have to wait to see on Saturday if that will change at all.”