The Vuelta a España heated up in a big way Wednesday. The tempo was set by defending champion Primoz Roglic and Durango’s own Sepp Kuss.
Roglic of Team Jumbo-Visma stormed to his second stage win of this year’s Spanish Vuelta with huge support from Kuss to get right back into title contention, as he shaved 17 seconds off the lead of Richard Carapaz and went into second place.
Roglic, who is now only 13 seconds behind the lead, finished the brutal Stage 8 in 4 hours, 7 minutes, 8 seconds and earned a four-second time bonus for winning the stage. Carapaz of Ecuador and the INEOS Grenadiers was second, 13 seconds behind the winning time. Ireland’s Dan Martin also maintained his position with a third-place stage result to stay in third place overall, 28 seconds behind Carapaz.
“The pace took off after the penultimate climb,” Roglic said in a Jumbo-Visma news release. “I only knew the final climb from the road book, and it turned out to be a tough climb. I had good legs and you should take every chance to win. In addition, I took important seconds on my opponents, but in the first place it is great to win here. The next two stages are relatively flat. The weekend ahead will also be tough. We look at it from day to day and we try to stay focused.”
Wednesday’s stage was 102 miles with a climbing finish atop Alto de Moncalvillo. With two miles to the finish, Stage 7 winner Hugh Carthy, who entered the day in second overall, made an attack. The EF Pro Cycling team rider from Great Britain was countered by Kuss, the 26-year old Jumbo-Visma rider from Durango.
The counter would prove pivotal, as Carthy was unable to get away from Roglic and Carapaz and the other general classification contenders.
Eventually, the two race leaders would duke it out near the top of the final climb, and Roglic was able to put in a final surge as he stood on his pedals and hammered toward a big victory.
“It was good that I could still stay with the riders for the classification,” Kuss said in the news release. “That way I was able to assist Primož in the final. It was not my intention to go for the stage win. My move with Hugh Carthy in the last kilometers was mainly in the service of Primož. It was just a very tough climb, and it is great that we have won here and that we have taken back some time.”
Kuss would go on to finish the stage in eighth place, 54 seconds behind Roglic. He moved into 20th overall, 10:06 behind the lead time of Carapaz. Kuss had been riding sixth overall until a tough day Sunday for the entire Jumbo-Visma squad. He had dropped back to 23rd before climbing up three spots Wednesday. It was the fourth top-10 stage finish for Kuss at this year’s Vuelta.
As he came across the finish line, Kuss found Roglic, and the teammates embraced in a quick hug. The good performance came the same day co-team leader Tom Dumoulin had dropped out of the race, thrusting more focus on Kuss for the Jumbo-Visma squad.
Thursday’s Stage 9 was one for the sprinters, as is Friday’s Stage 10. The stage was won by Germany’s Pascal Ackermann. There was no change in the general classification standings. The Jumbo-Visma riders did a strong job to keep Roglic, who celebrated his 31st birthday on Thursday, with the bunch finish after he had a flat tire and needed a bike change late in the stage.
“It was a relatively easy flat stage,” Roglic said. “Although we did have to keep paying attention, because at times it was very nervous in the peloton. We got through the stage well, so it was a good day for us. It was a beautiful day to celebrate your birthday. I feel good, the team is good, and I look forward to the coming days. So far I’m really enjoying this Vuelta.”
Kuss finished the stage in 61st in the same time as the winner. He remained 20th overall.
After Friday’s sprint stage, Saturday’s Stage 11 is a scary test for Halloween with five categorized climbs with four Category 1, including the massive summit finish of Alto de la Farrapona to conclude a 105.5-mile day.
Kuss has had eyes on Stage 12 since the route was announced for the 18-stage event. It features five more categorized climbs across a 68-mile route, with the beyond categorization climb of famed Alto de l’Angliru capping off the big day. It is likely Kuss will have the opportunity to race for stage wins during the weekend.