Primož Roglič brings home Jumbo-Visma 1-2 on stage 17 – Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta a Espana 2023

Stage 17

Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) hung onto his lead at the Vuelta a España by just eight seconds, despite being dropped in the final two kilometres of the Altu de L’Angliru.

Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard finished first and second, respectively, after they distanced Kuss. They finished 19 seconds ahead of the American, and Roglič took 10 while Vingegaard took eight bonus seconds.

Kuss outsprinted Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) on the descent to the finish to finish third and so picked up four bonus seconds; the maths meaning that Kuss kept the race lead by just eight seconds ahead of Vingegaard.

Roglič is third overall at 1:08, with overall victory in the Vuelta a España perhaps a battle of nerves and seconds between Kuss and Vingegaard.

With their rivals all distanced, the Jumbo-Visma trio extended the lead on their rivals. Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) is fourth overall but at 4:00.

Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) went on the attack for the early mountains points and managed to reach the final five kilometres of the Angliru before being caught and dropped.

Kuss celebrated his 29th birthday before the start of the stage and again with family and friends at the finish.

Like always, there was no anger in his voice post-stage. He perhaps initially thought he had lost the overall lead but still wants his shot at overall victory, even if his time advantage is now in single figures and on a knife-edge.

“It was a position I never expected to be in, and that’s the beautiful thing about it,” Kuss told Eurosport/GCN before the podium ceremony.

“I came in with no expectations and was just looking to help out the guys like always. Then I came into this beautiful jersey and all the experiences that come with it. I discovered a new level of self-confidence and racing instinct. That was really, really beautiful.

“I’m also with two incredible guys, and I think behind the scenes, we work really well together. They’re two big champions. I also want my shot, but I’m also happy to work for them when it’s called for. But very much, I want my shot.”

Roglič admitted he rode his own pace and knew that Kuss had been dropped but called on his teammate to “keep fighting, keep believing and he will make it.”

Vingegaard pulled back 1:15 on Kuss when he attacked to win stage 15 and took a further 25 seconds on stage 16, but he also said he wants the American to win overall.

“To be honest, I’m still happy that Sepp is in the jersey. To be honest, I actually hope that he will keep the jersey. I would love to see Sepp winning this Vuelta a España,” he said at the finish.

Thursday’s mountain finish at La Cruz de Linares is Kuss’ next and perhaps decisive challenge. If he can retain his lead there, he could then go all the way to victory in Madrid.

Stage 16 was short at just 124.4km but the steep gradients of the Angliru meant it was always going to be a very important stage in the battle for overall victory at the 2023 Vuelta a España. The added twists of an internal battle for race leadership at Jumbo-Visma and the next Remco Evenepoel show only heightened the anticipation for the stage.

True to character and ambition, as soon as the flag dropped, Evenepoel was among the attackers, the young Belgian keen to score more mountain points to defend his blue polka-dot jersey and see what else he could achieve.

Evenepoel was pulled back as the opening kilometres were raced at over 50km/h, but he attacked again and again and finally got away in a group of 11.

They also included Mattia Cattaneo (Soudal-QuickStep), Lorenzo Germani (Groupama-FDJ), Jorge Arcas (Movistar), Jarrad Drizners (Lotto-Dstny), Romain Combaud, Chris Hamilton (DSM-Firmenich), Geoffrey Bouchard, Larry Warbasse (AG2R Citroën), Jorge Arcas (Movistar) and Paul Ourselin (TotalEnergies).

However, the speed and Evenepoel’s desire to stay away meant the group quickly reduced to just Evenepoel, Cattaneo, Warbasse, Germani and Drizners. With 70km to go, Drizners, Warbasse and then German were dropped, with Evenepoel and Cattaneo powering over the lower slopes on the way to the Alto de la Colladiella, the first categorised climb of the day.

UAE Team Emirates continued with their unpredictable team tactics, and Marc Soler suddenly attacked with 52 km to go. The Spaniard set off on a solo mission to cross to Evenepoel and Cattaneo. Behind, Jumbo-Visma led a controlled chase, keeping Evenepoel and Soler under control to keep the stage victory a possibility.

Evenepoel led Cattaneo over the top of the Alto de la Colladiella and collected another 10 points, taking his mountain classification total to 81. Soler was 1:10 back at the summit, with the GC group at 2:40.

Sepp Kuss’ days in the red jersey could be numbered.

Cattaneo then played a perfect team role for Evenepoel on the 20km of flat roads to the Alto del Cordal climb, keeping Soler, the chasers and the Jumbo-Visma group at bay. On the next climb, the Alto del Cordal, he then dropped back, leaving his team leader to do his thing on the steep 8.5% climb and score more mountain classification points.

Evenepoel swept up another 10 points at the summit of the Alto del Cordal, with Soler at 2:00 and the GC group at 2:20.

Soler’s attack obliged Bahrain Victorious to chase him to keep Mikel Landa close on the GC and also gave Jumbo-Visma a chance to save their riders, highlighting the lack of logic in the attack. Bahrain Victorious were also on a mission, with Damiano Caruso, Wout Poels and Santiago Biutrago working as a unit.

Soler soon sat up and was swept up, accepting the folly of his attack, with Bahrain Victorious continuing with their generous work on the front. Soler was soon dropped and so would drop down the GC standings from sixth to 13th.

The technical descent of the Alto del Cordal was under the trees, but the mighty Altu de L’Angliru soon came into view, its exposed, rocky peak forcing riders to crane their necks upwards.

The average speed of the stage had been 43.8km/h up to that point, but it was suddenly time to switch to much smaller gears and much slower speeds.

The opening five kilometres of the Angliru are in single figures, but the final six are over 12%, with some sections and corners close to 20%.

Evenepoel started the Angliru with a lead of 1:20. He spun his way up the lower slopes but seemed aware he had little chance of staying away. He was able to recover briefly on the flat mid-climb section, but then the steep, near-vertical road to the summit began as the cloud line came close.

There were only 20 or so riders left in the GC group, but the gradients soon began to make a selection, hurting riders and forcing them out of the back. Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) and Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) were soon distanced, but the Portuguese rider would again make one of his trademark recoveries and confirm his superb mountain pacing.

Bahrain Victorious and Jumbo-Visma were in the GC group en masse, with Kuss sitting ahead of Roglič and Vingegaard and everyone else fighting to hang onto their wheels.

With 5.8km to go, Romain Bardet (Team dsm-firmenich) surged away, and the increase in pace quickly saw Evenepoel caught and spat out.

The peloton passing close to the Ribadesella seaside beach.

Poels soon took over on the front and increased in pace. That distanced Ayuso and then Enric Mas (Movistar).

Suddenly, only Landa, Kuss, Roglič, Vingegaard and Biutrago could stay in the group. Ayuso and Almeida tried to limit their losses but slowly lost sight of the lead group in the ever-thickening mist. It was the story of their Vuelta.

They were 40 seconds behind with three kilometres to go, with Enric Mas (Movistar) in between at 20 seconds. Ayuso would lose 1:42 at the finish, while Almeida finished stronger at just 58 seconds, with the ever-impressive Cian Uijtdebroeks (Bora-Hansgrohe) also limiting his losses.

Roglič finally took over on the front with two kilometres of the steep roads to climb. He spun a low gear, but it was effective, and he cracked Wout Poels and hurt Landa.

Kuss and Vingegaard did not initially move, but then they both came up through the mist to join Roglič to enforce yet again Jumbo-Visma’s absolute dominance.

Would they ride for Kuss, or would the road decide their individual fates? The answer came with 1.9km to go. Vingegaard was on Roglič’s wheel, and suddenly, Kuss lost the wheel. The gap opened, and he appeared to tell them to ride on via the team radio.

Kuss seemed resigned to losing the red leader’s jersey but kept riding hard.

Destiny then stepped in. Landa caught and helped close the gap as Roglič and Vingegaard also slowed.

At the summit of the Alngliru, with a fast downhill kilometre to race, Kuss and Landa were just 17 seconds down on Roglič and Vingegaard. Every second and every bonus second would count.

Roglič led Vingegaard to the line, and so won the stage. Kuss sprinted through the corners to finish third and so held on to the race lead by just eight seconds.

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