2023 Vuelta España nears Madrid
September 14, 2023 5:40 AM   Subscribe

The 2023 Vuelta España has been filled with drama, as super domestique Sepp Kuss wears the red leader jersey ahead of teammates Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard, winners of this year's other two "Grand Tour" stage races: the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, respectively. With last year's winner Remco Evenepoel far in arrears it would appear that nothing can stop Team Jumbo Visma from winning this year's race, but who will stand atop the podium on Sunday?

Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard have been attacking their teammate, who arrived at the race in a purely support role, on the final slopes of the last days' stages, calling in to question the dynamics inside the most dominant team in cycling today.
posted by St. Oops (16 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Just to hopefully preempt anybody who says that the strongest rider should win, cycling is a team sport, and to attack your own teammate who is in the leader’s jersey is a show of disrespect. I had come to love Roglic and developed some manner of respect for Vingegaard but their actions over the past few days has indicated to me that they are primadonnas.

posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:07 AM on September 14 [10 favorites]

This race was always going to result in an awkward confrontation between Roglic and Vingegaard. You can’t have two kings on the same team. The surprise rise of Sepp Kuss into the leaders jersey gave Jumbo Visma an opportunity to avoid that. I suspect Vingegaard though wants to assert his dominance within the team in advance of next year, no matter what the optics.
posted by spudsilo at 6:16 AM on September 14 [2 favorites]

Jonas and Primos attacking Sepp seems a very weird situation. If you want to see it in a slightly positive light you could say that up till now both riders were attacking each other (wanting to be second behind Sepp in case Sepp would fall through).

Yesterday it was clear that Primos couldn't distance Jonas and doesn't stand a chance winning that fight. Knowing that, there's no reason anymore to attack and they should from now on just support Sepp.

In a few hours we'll know if this theory is correct. It would be a complete shambles if it isn't. :-)
posted by Kosmob0t at 6:17 AM on September 14 [2 favorites]

I feel bad for Kuss and were I in the peleton I wouldn't be inclined to go the extra mile for either Vingegaard or Roglič in future.
posted by plonkee at 6:51 AM on September 14 [2 favorites]

Oh to be a fly on the wall in the team bus.
posted by klanawa at 8:16 AM on September 14 [1 favorite]

eight seconds isn't a big gap... as long as there's no risk to the team taking the podium, why not allow them to fight for first?
posted by kokaku at 8:38 AM on September 14

It's been interesting listening to the interviews. According to Sepp, Jonas told him, on the Angliru, "you're going to win this (meaning the vuelta)" and Primoz encouraged him to push through. But their actions on the stage bely that support. However, Kuss is still in Red, and the separation from the big 3 JV riders to 4th place is now big enough to make a defensive attack on other teams seem more like an attempt to rob Kuss of the win.
It's a feel good story if it plays out. But "gifting" a Grand Tour is a pretty big ask.
I'm a bit sad for Roglic. Jumbo didn't have to add Jonas to the roster for this tour, and now, instead of winning his 4th Vuelta he's likely to end up 3rd.
If Jonas takes the red into Madrid he'll be a bit lonely, i suspect, in his bid for another TdF.
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:38 AM on September 14 [3 favorites]

Ask Fignon how big a gap 8 seconds is.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:20 AM on September 14 [5 favorites]

Well after today's stage it appears that team management has successfully telegraphed to the presumptive team leaders the ire of the cycling fan community, and Sepp seems pretty safe in the red jersey. It's a truly amazing accomplishment in so many ways. Here's a fellow who's never ridden for himself but always in the service of team captains who finds himself in the lead almost by accident. A man who has not only ridden every Grand Tour this season (a rare feat in itself) but managed to perform at the highest level at each one. And Jumbo Visma manages the almost inconceivable feat of winning all three Grand Tours with three different riders in the same season. Granted the three riders at the top of the podium in this race does conjure images of Mapei at Paris Roubaix and all that era of cycling represented.

We're big Jumbo Visma fans in this household, mainly because of Wout but we all have a soft spot for Sepp. I happened to see Wout out training in Switzerland at the beginning of the summer from my train window on the Bernina express (a highlight of my year!) and Primož training on the Riviera while the Tour was going on. It's nice to see the squad stand unified behind Sepp now at the end of this race. It may even help them lure a big sponsor in the coming months as the Jumbo supermarket management has decided to yank sports sponsorships in the coming years and an American talent might attract some dollars from overseas...
posted by St. Oops at 11:49 AM on September 14 [4 favorites]

(facepalm) I can't believe I didn't think to make a "killer bee" reference to the team (who wear distinctive black and yellow kit which has earned them the moniker) and post this the other day in the swarm of bee posts.
posted by St. Oops at 11:53 AM on September 14

As a Roglič fan, I was pretty disappointed when I heard Jonas was riding the Vuelta, for this exact reason. I really wanted to watch Roglič unleashed and I knew his teammate would be his biggest rival (except for Evenepoel). And then when Kuss ended up in that breakaway in week one I was even more bummed, even though I love Sepp Kuss!

In retrospect, I should have been cheering for Evenepoel to stay competitive on GC. It might have forced all the Jumbo contenders to follow his attacks and/or counterattack, and then we might have seen who was the strongest (likely Vingegaard, but still would have liked to see it), instead of having the three Jumbo riders have to always finish on the same time or risk being perceived as poor teammates (and rightfully so!).

In conclusion, it's actually not that fun to watch a bike race in which the top three riders are all on the same team, even when it's your favoirte team.
posted by crLLC at 11:54 AM on September 14 [3 favorites]

I've been enjoying this race so much. Not just the top three, but stages and the race for the lower overall placings have been great.
The crazy team time trial the first day, in rain and ending in darkness.
Evenepoel's overly speedy victory celebration and interview.
Geoffrey Soupe winning his first grand tour stage at 35 after being included in the Vuelta at the last minute.
Fillipo Ganna's time trial was so skillful. He also holds the hour record on a bike built for the effort.
Jesus Herrada's devoted swannie (basically his support guy).
Evenepoel and Bardet's breakaway. Evenepoel's been just as entertaining now that he's not going for overall results.
UAE team also started with two leaders and ended up with their loyal domestique in 2nd for bit.
The youngest guy in the race, Lenny Martinez, was leading for three days.
Plus a bunch of other teams and people and subplots.

And Spain is just beautiful.
posted by sepviva at 12:47 PM on September 14 [4 favorites]

"eight seconds isn't a big gap... as long as there's no risk to the team taking the podium, why not allow them to fight for first?"

Though certain fans, and segments of the media suddenly have forgotten, but the strategy has always been to defend the leader. In this case Jumbo has the top three riders 3-4 minutes up and can easily defend the lead from any attack. Normally, in a case like this unless the man in the jersey cracks and dramatically falls off the pace, the other riders work for him. What Primoz and Jonas did was a HUGE disrespect to Sepp. Even more so since Sepp buried himself to save Primoz at the Giro and was instrumental in Jonas' TDF win.
posted by remo at 12:51 PM on September 14 [7 favorites]

It was heartening to see the three teammates cross the line together today, hand in hand. My daughter commented that they looked like the Spanish flag, red flanked I yellow. Good for Sepp! And good for the rest of the Jumbo team.
posted by St. Oops at 1:39 PM on September 16 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I teared up at the end of stage 20 when the three sat up and crossed the line together. There was also a nice moment just before the final climb when the speeds were increasing in advance of the attacks and Primoz rode by Kuss and nodded for him to get on his wheel so he could guide him through the attacks to come. Nice to see.
posted by crLLC at 11:14 AM on September 17 [3 favorites]

Welp, I suppose this post is too fresh to start a new one for Sepp's victory, so huzzah in place!

While we watched the end of the stage on Sunday, we didn't sit down to watch the ceremony until last night. We pulled our five year old into it and tried to explain it was a big deal an American had one, but more importantly, he has always seemed (and hopefully will remain!) a pretty stand up fellow. As an American watching cycling, it's always been a bit of almost hoping to see someone break through like Sepp unintentionally did earlier in the race. He's been amazing as a domestique for so many years, pulling Jonas up mountains like nobody's business, just always that name you hear supporting the Jumbo-Visma champion(s) at times when other riders are simply melting away.

It was additionally cool to see Sepp address the crowd in Spanish and to thank the Spanish fans for their support during the race.

For the overall for the race, I had originally been hoping Primoz was going to nab that 4th win and was surprised at the decision to include Jonas. It felt very greedy on the part of Jumbo-Visma, that they were so desperate to get that third grand tour they didn't trust their guy who'd been resting since he won the Giro. It's a good question on whether Primoz could've outridden Evenepoel (would RE had melted down in the same situation as he did when Sepp had the Red?) but still, bad form I think to have brought Jonas.
posted by Atreides at 12:05 PM on September 19 [2 favorites]

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