Kuss seals life-changing Vuelta a España win, Groves takes final stage from the break

Nailbiting final stage crowns American grand tour success.

Photo: Getty Images

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Australian rider Kaden Groves sealed victory in the points classification with a flourish on Sunday, winning his third stage of the Vuelta a España from a high power breakaway.

The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider came off the wheel of Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step), with Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) and Nico Denz (Bora-hansgrohe) holding on for second and third, with the peloton catching the rest right at the line.

Sepp Kuss finished safely in the main bunch to become the first American male grand tour winner in a decade. He spearheaded a Jumbo-Visma one-two-three on the podium, as well as an unprecedented three grand tours by a single team in one season.

The day’s key move occurred with just over an hour remaining when Nico Denz and Lennard Kämna (both Bora-hansgrohe) plus Rui Costa (Intermarché – Circus – Wanty) attacked, with Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step), Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) bridging across with 32km to go.

The strength of the group was obvious, and their cooperation saw them stay clear right into the final kilometer. A stall prior to the sprint allowed the bunch to—just about—latch on to the back of the group inside the final 600 meters, but Evenepoel launched early and gave Groves, Ganna and Denz the extra nudge needed to land the top three places on the stage.

“We came into today really wanting to take the stage and obviously keep the green jersey. But from a breakaway, it was not my intentions,” Groves said, voicing surprise as to how things turned out.

“Remco this morning was a threat for the green jersey. I suspected he might try something, not to take the jersey, but to try to win the stage. I knew I had to follow him, so when he went, thankfully Edward Planckaert did a great job to pull me across the gap.”

Things closing up again in the finale looked serious, but he had enough left under the hood to land the win.

“I didn’t want to pull the guys in the last kilometer because obviously then it would take away my sprint. We all looked at each other and then that meant the peloton could come back together. I knew that in the sprint I could find a little extra, and Remco leading out at 500 meters was a big advantage to me.”

Kuss was, as expected, beaming at the finish, but admitted that it was a hard finale to the Vuelta.

“It is incredible,” he said about being crowned the race winner. “I think today was the stage I suffered the most of the whole race. Now I am just glad it is over.

“I had a feeling it would be a fast stage when I saw all those guys [Groves, Ganna, Evenepoel] getting ready to attack in the beginning. I suffered more today than I did on the Angliru. It was a nice way to finish off.”

He went into the race as a super-domestique for Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič, yet ended up 17 seconds clear of the Tour winner and 1’08” ahead of the triple Vuelta champion. Is he a different person now?

“No, not at all,” he said. “I’ll still be me. It’s life-changing for sure, but I think I’ll just look back on this experience with a lot of fond memories. It is still sinking in. I think it is going to take quite some time.”

Race winner Sepp Kuss, podium finishers Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič plus the rest of Team Jumbo-Visma celebrate at finish line of the Vuelta a España. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Festivities, then fireworks

The final stage was marked by early celebrations, with the Jumbo-Visma team bedecked in a new team kit featuring pink, yellow and red stripes marking success in each of the Grand Tours, and podium-finishers Kuss, Evenepoel and Roglič posing for photographs together.

There was a general sense of jubilation in the peloton, but things became gradually more serious as the riders approached Madrid. Jumbo-Visma led the peloton into the Spanish capital, with the day’s important breakaway starting to form with 45km to go when Nico Denz and Lennard Kämna (both Bora-hansgrohe) attacked. They were joined soon afterwards by former world champion Rui Costa (Intermarché – Circus – Wanty), with a high-powered reaction coming with 38km remaining.

Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) attacked in a bid to bridge, being swiftly joined by sprint favourite Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Filippo Ganna, Omar Fraile and Kim Heiduk (all Ineos Grenadiers). These were 23 seconds back with six laps to go and several seconds clear of the peloton, but the chasers drew closer and closer. Fraile and Heiduk dropped back, while Ganna, Groves and Evenepoel joined with 32.8km left.

The power of the group was reflected in the fact that all bar one of the six had already won a stage in this year’s race. They knuckled down well together and had 17 seconds with two laps, or 11km, to go, and 15 at the bell.

More and more teams were sweeping through behind, reducing the gap to approximately eight seconds with two kilometers to go. They were still well clear heading under the kite but a stall almost spelt disaster for them, with Evenepoel’s stubborn launch with over 500 to go paving the way for Groves’ third stage win.

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