After a dramatic group sprint that Australian Kaden Groves won on Sunday, American Sepp Kuss could roll into Madrid as the champion of the Vuelta a Espana. The three-week event was completed in Madrid.
Kuss began the race in the shadow of his more renowned Jumbo-Visma teammates Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic. However, he concluded with the red jersey still on his shoulders, having seized control of it on the eighth of the event’s 21 stages. In addition, Kuss finished the race with an overall victory.
The 29-year-old finished 17 seconds ahead of Vingegaard, the champion of the Tour de France from Denmark, with Roglic, the winner of the Giro d’Italia from Slovenia, coming in third place one minute and eight seconds later.
It is the first time that a single team has won all three Grand Tours in a season, and Kuss is the first American rider to win one of the three since Chris Horner’s victory in the 2013 Vuelta. It is also the first time a single team has won all three Grand Tours in a season.
When Kuss crossed the finish line on Saturday, he locked arms with Roglic and Vingegaard, who had become his elite domestics, sealing the deal on his overall triumph. Roglic and Vingegaard had become his elite domestiques.
On the 21st stage, which was 101 kilometers long and finished on a street circuit around the sights of Madrid, the Dutch team was in a jubilant mood. They had just won the stage.
The peloton overtook a tiny lead group that included Groves and Remco Evenepoel in the final 500 meters of the race, but the duel for the stage victory was a high-octane drama. Groves came out on top.
Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) of Belgium eventually pushed out in pursuit of his fourth stage win of the race; however, he could not maintain his pace, and Groves ultimately passed him with 200 meters to go.
After that, Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) turned up the pressure and won the race, beating off the rider for Ineos Grenadiers, Filippo Ganna, as well as the rider for Bora Hansgrohe, Germany’s Nico Denz.
While Kuss was celebrating his overall triumph, Groves became the first Australian to win the green jersey for the points category in the Vuelta. This was a significant accomplishment for Groves.
Evenepoel had an outstanding tour, but his chances of successfully defending his overall championship were dashed on stage 13. Despite this, he was awarded the climber’s jersey as a consolation prize.
Having helped Roglic and Vingegaard in the Giro and Tour de France earlier this year, as he has in the previous several years, Kuss emerged as an unexpected but popular winner. He had worked relentlessly to support Roglic and Vingegaard in both competitions.
“It’s incredible, I think today was the stage I suffered the most in throughout the whole race so now I’m just glad it’s over,” Kuss, who joined the team in 2018, said in an interview with Eurosport. “I think today was the stage I suffered the most in throughout the whole race.”
“It will undoubtedly alter the course of my life, but I will continue to be who I am. This event will leave me with many warm and fuzzy feelings when I reflect on it. It’s all just still registering in my mind, to be honest. It will take a significant amount of time.
When Kuss seized the red jersey from Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) on stage eight, most people believed he was only doing so to keep it warm for either Vingegaard or Roglic.
However, he minimized his losses during the stage 10 time trial and maintained his hold on the red jersey, which increased the difficulty of the challenge.
Then, when he refused to give up over numerous difficult mountain stages, including the one that ended Evenepoel’s challenge, he was forced to compete against the members of his squad.
When Vingegaard attacked him on a summit finish on stage 16, he took back more than a minute of his advantage, but he refused to give up in the last days of the race.
Marc Reef, the sporting director for Jumbo-Visma, noted that Kuss’ triumph demonstrated the strength of the team’s depth.
“This is a victory for the whole team,” he remarked. “This is a victory for everyone.” “We are over the moon with pride. Sepp never changes who he is; he is consistently Sepp. This holds the same significance as the victories of Jonas and Primoz. Remarkably, he competed in all three of this year’s Grand Tours and has been a crucial member of our winning teams.