Kaden Groves wins stage 21 as Sepp Kuss crowned Vuelta a Espana champion

Vuelta a Espana 2023

Stage 21

Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) carried the green jersey to victory on stage 21 of the Vuelta a España in Madrid holding off Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) at the line.

Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) turned the formality of completing the last stage into reality as the USA’s second-ever overall winner of the Spanish Grand Tour. Jumbo-Visma swept the GC podium, with Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard second and Giro d’Italia champion Primož Roglič in third.

It was a historical finish for the Jumbo-Visma Squad, as they became the first-ever team to win all three Grand Tours in a single season.

The final 101.5km stage from Hipódromo de la Zarzuela to Madrid turned from a parade-like ride to an explosive six-rider breakaway adventure. The peloton made the catch in the closing straightaway, with Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) going to the front with Groves on his wheel. The Australian was able to come around and sprint to victory, ahead of break-mates Ganna and Nico Denz (Bora-Hansgrohe).

After winning stage 6, the top climbing domestique Kuss claimed the red leader’s jersey two days later and successfully defended against all attacks to clinch a career-defining triumph and his first overall stage race win since the Tour of Utah back in 2018. He tops the final podium by 17 seconds ahead of Vingegaard and 1:08 on Roglič.

“It’s incredible. I think today it was the stage that I suffered the most of the whole race, now I’m just glad it’s over,” Kuss said.

“I had a feeling it would be a fast stage when I saw all those guys getting ready to attack at the beginning. Like I said, I suffered more today than I did on the L’Angliru. It was a nice way to finish off.”

Groves stayed attentive and jumped on Evenepoel when he launched his attack.

“I didn’t imagine I would win this way. Coming into today, I really wanted to take the stage and keep the green jersey but going for a breakaway wasn’t my intention,” Groves said. “I knew I had to follow him [Evenepoel] so when he went, thankfully Edward [Plankaert] did a great job to pull me across the gap.”

The Australian trusted his sprint in the finale in Madrid.

Kaden Groves secures victory on stage 21.

“We all looked at each other and that meant the peloton could come back together but I knew that in the sprint I could find a little extra and Remco [Evenepoel] leading out at 500 metres is a big advantage for me.”

Fourth overall, 21-year-old Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) claimed the white jersey, with a 4:42 lead on runner-up Cian Uijtdebroeks (BORA-hansgrohe) in the young rider’s classification.

2022 Vuelta winner Evenepoel dominated the climber’s polka-dot jersey competition with an 84-point lead over Vingegaard.

Groves had already secured the green jersey before the final stage, beating Evenepoel by 79 points at the top of the standings. Unsurprisingly, Jumbo-Visma won the team competition ahead of Bahrain Victorious, and Evenepoel was deservedly awarded the most aggressive rider award after an aggressive three weeks of racing.

The peloton took a relaxed start for the final Vuelta a España stage, an urban 101km route around and in central Madrid, which provided a day of celebration for the GC leaders with the usual early kilometres celebrations and photo opportunities.

For the second time in Vuelta history, the final stage started from the La Zarzuela Hippodrome, after 2020.

The Jumbo-Visma riders, except for Kuss, donned special jerseys for the final stage, highlighting the three Grand Tour victories this year. While lining up at the back for photos, Dylan van Baarle held up a shirt with ‘NATHAN’ written on the front of it as a gesture to teammate Nathan Van Hooydonck, who was recovering from a serious car accident last week.

Jumbo-Visma drove the peloton in the kilometres leading to the Madrid circuit and battled with Alpecin-Deceuninck to cross the finish line for the first time with 52.2km to go.

Setting a fast pace, the Alpecin-Deceuninck team led Groves out to take the uncontested intermediate sprint head of his teammate. Groves picked up 20 points, making his lead over Evenepoel in that competition almost impossible to overtake.

The all conquering Team Jumbo Visma.

The first attack of the day launched three riders off the front, Bora-Hansgrohe duo of Denz and Lennard Kämna and Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) who pushed the gap up to 30 seconds with seven laps to go. Behind, Team dsm-firmenich, Ineos Grenadiers and Alpecin-Deceuninck put riders at the front of the peloton to control the pace.

Disrupting the expected parade stage leading to a bunch sprint, Evenepoel attacked with 36 km to go. Three Ineos Grenadiers riders Kim Heiduk, Omar Fraile and Ganna, jumped on his wheel with attentive Groves joining the move to monitor the threatening move.

Inside of six laps to go, the two groups off the front connected, with Evenepoel, Kämna, Costa, Denz, Ganna and Groves continuing in the break with a 14-second gap on the peloton led by EF Education-EasyPost and UAE Team Emirates. Five of the six riders in the powerful break have already won a stage in this year’s Vuelta.

With five laps to go, Groves started working with the other riders in the break, slowly increasing the gap to 22 seconds to a disorganized peloton.

Sensing the danger, Groupama-FDJ, Cofidis, Lotto Dstny and Arkéa-Samsic added riders to chase down the break, but the gap was still 20 seconds with 20 km to go. With three laps to go, the peloton nibbled five seconds from the gap.

Bahrain Victorious also added a rider to fuel the chase with the gap holding at 14 seconds with two laps to go.

The gap was holding as the bell rang for the final lap. The peloton led by Groupama-FDJ was not giving up the chase. The six riders only had an 8-second lead with 3km to go.

Ganna drove a hard pace with 1.3km to go with Costa sitting on until Kämna took over going into the last corner with Groves in second wheel. Riders in the break started to play games in the final metres with the peloton breathing down their necks.

Evenepoel accelerated once again but Groves jumped on his wheel and was able to come around to take the victory. Ganna took second and Denz third. Evenepoel ultimately finished eight.

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