Pedersen wins his third 2022 Vuelta stage

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Remco Evenepoel has had no trouble protecting his lead in the Vuelta a Espana with only one day of competitive racing left to derail his now seemingly inevitable victory.

Belgian Evenepoel, the brilliant young Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider, 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 138.3km 19th stage 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 to go alongside three runners-up spots which has ensured he's dominated the points classification in the green jersey.

Mas will effectively have his last chance to overtake Evenepoel on Saturday's penultimate mountainous stage, before the largely ceremonial arrival to Madrid on Sunday when tradition mandates that there are no attempts to overtake the leader.

The 20th stage is a 181km ride from Moralzarzal to Puerto de Navacerrada that includes three category-one climbs and a summit finish.

Evenepoel has been leading the race since the sixth stage 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.

There was no significant changes to the GC standings with Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroen) in eighth at 9:34 down and Jai Hindley (BORA-Hansgrohe) 10th at 12:03 still leading the Australian challenge among the 134 riders still left in the field.