Sepp Kuss optimistic of winning Vuelta a España as Jonas Vingegaard draws closer

Vingegaard’s stage 16 win sees him reduce overall gap between his Jumbo-Visma team-mate to just 29 seconds

Race leader Sepp Kuss has insisted he still believes he can win the Vuelta a España, despite Jonas Vingegaard winning Tuesday’s stage 16 and drawing closer and closer to the American in the general classification of the race.

Kuss, two-time Tour de France winner Vingegaard and three-time Vuelta winner Primož Roglič are all team-mates on the Jumbo-Visma squad.

Kuss normally rides in a support rider for both, and indeed helped them to each of those Grand Tour victories, but gained 2′52 on the other two early in the Vuelta when he got into a breakaway and won stage six.

He moved to the top of the general classification two days later and has held the race leader’s red jersey ever since, riding at a higher level than previously in his career. Both Vingegaard and Roglič acknowledged his strong work in their service and welcomed his new success.


However, Vingegaard’s 2′22 deficit dropped to 1′44 when he won stage 13 and his solo raid with 4km remaining on Tuesday’s stage saw him take the day’s victory, move to second overall and further reduce the gap to just 29 seconds.

Roglič gained four seconds on Kuss and sits 1′33 back in third.

Kuss’s position atop the general classification now looks more precarious, not least with Wednesday’s stage to the top of the wall-like Angliru climb to come, as well as another summit finish on Thursday plus an arduous final mountain leg on Saturday.

However, if he is feeling pressure of a dream Vuelta win potentially slipping away, he wasn’t showing it. “The plan changed a little bit,” he said. “Just before the final part of the climb, Jonas [Vingegaard] asked on the radio if he could attack and it was a really good moment to go. Everybody was looking at each other behind and he also rode a super-fast climb, so he was unstoppable.

“It’s another super day for the team. I felt pretty good. I knew this kind of finish would be hard for me, it’s really explosive. I’m happy with how I rode, hanging on there. Tomorrow is a totally different story. The legs are still good and I’m looking forward to it.”

For his part, Vingegaard said he was motivated by a serious car crash involving his team-mate and friend Nathan van Hooydonck. “I’m just happy to win today. We had some terrible news this morning and I wanted to win for my best friend today,” he said.

Van Hooydonck has since been confirmed as being out of danger.

“Luckily now there is good news. It’s a big relief for me, for the team, and I hope he will recover soon. I don’t know if I’ll take the overall lead tomorrow. I just want to enjoy the moment.”

Kuss said the best man should win, even if he has done a lot for his team-mates in the past.

“I don’t want to win this Vuelta as a gift, that is not sport,” he said. “They know what I’ve done for them, but they’re also winners.

“Tomorrow I will try to do the stage as well as I can. It [the Angliru] is a climb that I like a lot, and I hope to still be in the leader’s jersey.”

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about cycling