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Evenepoel closes in on Vuelta title, Pedersen gets 3rd win

Race leader Remco Evenepoel looks to seal GC victory as the 2022 Vuelta a España reaches its final mountain stage.

TALAVERA DE LA REINA, Spain -- Remco Evenepoel had no trouble protecting his lead of the Spanish Vuelta in Stage 19 with only one day of competitive racing left.

Evenepoel of Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl maintained his two-minute lead over Enric Mas over the course of the short and hilly ride that finished in a long, flat arrival to the finish line.

Mads Pedersen, the 2019 world champion, beat his fellow sprinters to claim the 138.3-kilometer (85.9-mile) ride to and from Talavera de la Reina in central Spain. It was the Dane’s third win of this race for his Trek-Segafredo team.

Mas’ last chance to overtake Evenepoel will be during a mountainous stage before the largely ceremonial arrival to Madrid when tradition mandates that there are no attempts to overtake the leader.

Stage 20 is a 181-kilometer (112-mile) ride from Moralzarzal to Puerto de Navacerrada that includes three category-one climbs and a summit finish.

Evenepoel has been leading the race since Stage 6 in the longest run at the top for a Belgian at a Grand Tour race since Johan De Muynck won the Giro d’Italia in 1978. That was the last victory for Belgium in a three-week event.

Evenepoel’s most dangerous challenger was three-time defending champion Primoz Roglic, who had been closing the gap until he crashed earlier this week and had to withdraw from the race.