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Vingegaard claims emotional stage victory in Vuelta for his close friend, Van Hooydonck.

On a day filled with emotion at the Vuelta a España, Jonas Vingegaard emerged victorious on the uphill finish of stage 16.

Vingegaard attributed his win to his “best friend” and fellow teammate Nathan van Hooydonck, who was involved in a car accident in Belgium on Tuesday. A statement from Jumbo-Visma later confirmed that Van Hooydonck was in stable condition at the hospital and did not sustain any major injuries.

“I am delighted to have won today,” expressed the Danish cyclist. “Unfortunately, we received some devastating news this morning. I dedicated my victory to my best friend.” Vingegaard and his Hungarian colleague, Attila Valter, shared with Eurosport that Van Hooydonck was conscious in the hospital after receiving an update from the team radio during the race.

Fortunately, there is positive news regarding his condition. This is a huge relief for both myself and the team, and we are optimistic that he will make a speedy recovery,” Vingegaard stated. Valter also mentioned that the Jumbo-Visma riders were informed of this news via team radio right before tackling the steep Bejes ascent.

Vingegaard, aiming to win both the Tour de France and Vuelta this year, pulled ahead in the last 4km of the stage. He crossed the finish line 43 seconds ahead of Finn Fisher-Black (UAE Team Emirates), with Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) trailing six seconds behind.

After relying on teammate Van Hooydonck’s unwavering assistance during his journey to securing a second Tour victory this year, Vingegaard appeared visibly moved upon reaching the finish line. When questioned about the significance of his win for the overall Vuelta competition, Vingegaard expressed, “I simply want to savor this moment and not dwell on that.”

Jumbo-Visma’s Sepp Kuss, who was leading the race, faced difficulties on the last climb and ended up finishing over a minute after Vingegaard. As a result, the American’s lead has reduced to just 29 seconds, while his teammate Primoz Roglic completed the Jumbo-Visma podium 1 minute and 33 seconds behind Kuss. Vingegaard has now overtaken Roglic to secure second place.

Sepp Kuss stays in the red jersey but saw his overall lead cut to 29 seconds.

Following a day of rest on Monday, the return to cycling was far from easy. Despite the initial classification of the Liencres Playa stage as flat, the intense pace and hilly terrain made for a challenging ride. The peloton struggled to keep up as a group of riders, including Kaden Groves of Alpecin-Deceuninck, broke away and earned additional points.

Jumbo-Visma’s speed resulted in the catch of the breakaway, leaving each rider to fend for themselves on the challenging 4.8km climb to the finish, with inclines as steep as 15%. Despite the possibility of Kuss being supported by his teammates, Vingegaard took matters into his own hands and powered up the slopes while standing out of his saddle.

The 26-year-old is expected to be the top contender for the red jersey and potentially achieve a Tour-Vuelta double crown as Wednesday’s stage finishes at the notorious Angliru ascent.

Source: theguardian.com