PUEBLA DE SANABRIA, Spain (AP) — Belgian rider Jasper Philipsen won a long, wet and windy Stage 15 at the Spanish Vuelta on Thursday, and Primoz Roglic held his overall lead with two more competitive days of racing left.
Philipsen earned his first stage win in a grand tour. He powered ahead of the pack near the end of the race’s longest stage of 230 kilometers (142 miles) through a winding, wooded terrain in northwest Spain.
“I have been waiting all the Vuelta for the right moment and today was more than I expected,” Philipsen said after embracing his UAE Team Emirates teammates and race director. “The head wind all day it made it really hard on the front group … I can enjoy this moment and try to finish my first grand tour. I am super proud now.”
The 22-year-old rider crossed the finish line in 6 hours, 22 minutes, just ahead of Pascal Ackermann and Jannik Steimle.
Roglic, the defending champion, maintained his 42 second lead over Richard Carapaz as the race closes in on Sunday’s ceremonial arrival in Madrid. John Hugh Carthy is third, 47 seconds behind.
The coronavirus pandemic caused the Vuelta to be pushed back from its hot and sunny August-September slot to the cooler and often wetter days of October and November. A tight race calendar also forced officials to reduce it to 18 stages from the usual 21.
Riders were forced to put on rain jackets to combat the drizzle and the low temperatures.
“It was a hard day so I am really happy it is behind us,” Roglic said.
On Friday, the race moves to central Spain as it starts its final approach to the capital. Stage 16 takes riders over 162 kilometers (100 miles) of hills from Salamanca to Ciudad Rodrigo. That will set up Saturday’s decisive mountain stage.
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