September 01, 2023, Spain: Jumbo-Visma turned the tables on race leader Remco Evenepoel in Stage 6 as Sepp Kuss soloed to glory while Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard stole a march on their Belgian rival. Victory for American climber Kuss on the Pico del Buitre was not enough to deny French debutant Lenny Martinez the red jersey as Evenepoel battled to limit his losses but dropped to ninth in the new-look GC.

Action from CYCLING World Tour 2023 – La Vuelta – Stage 7 – Utiel – Oliva will be LIVE on EUROSPORT and EUROSPORT HD from 19:00 Hrs (07:00 pm IST) onwards on Friday, 01st September, 2023. The Eurosport channel can now be streamed on the discovery+ app.

“If possible, [I’ll] give away the jersey. If not, then try to not lose any time. But it’s very early and I need to save my energy for the next weeks. We just have to wait and see what the breakaway will be then we can decide what the plan will be.”

Given Remco Evenepoel’s pre-stage declaration, it was mission accomplished of sorts for the Belgian defending champion – but at a cost of 32 seconds on his main rivals for red.

Regardless of the outcome to an astonishing sixth stage on La Vuelta a Espana, Evenepoel surely found himself regretting his choice of words when, after waiting to see what the breakaway indeed was, he discovered that Soudal-QuickStep’s plan involved trying to reduce a seven-minute gap on a stellar 40-man move up the road.

With 12 of the top 25 in the general classification involved in the breakaway, Evenepoel’s desire to lose the red jersey looked a sure-fire certainty. And even when the arrears had been halved ahead of the final climb of the Pico del Buitre, there was still little doubt that a new man would don La Roja on Thursday night.

That man could well have been Jumbo-Visma’s Sepp Kuss, who made his winning move two kilometres from the summit to solo to glory at the Observatorio Astrofisico de Javalambre, the American securing the second Vuelta stage win of his career in some style four years after the first. Had he not eased up to high-five roadside fans on the home straight, the 28-year-old may have ensured another trip to the podium.

But a rallying finish from debutant Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) saw the Frenchman deny Kuss the red jersey by eight seconds as Evenepoel wilfully – yet ultimately painfully – vacated the lead he established in Andorra on day three.

Twenty-year-old Martinez edged compatriot Romain Bardet (Team dsm-firmenich) for second place, 26 seconds behind Kuss, with Spanish duo Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) and Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) completing the top five.

On what was a fantastic day for Jumbo-Visma, Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic and Denmark’s Jonas Vingegaard combined to devastating effect – attacking around the same time Kuss threw down the hammer further up the road – to drop Evenepoel on the final climb and take back 32 seconds on their Belgian rival.

Double Tour de France champion Vingegaard now trails ninth-place Evenepoel by just five seconds in the new-look general classification with Roglic a further six seconds back – the powerful duo lying in wait just outside the top 10.

“No! I mean, for me to win a stage alone is incredible. I don’t know what I am in general now – we’ll see. One day at a time. I just have to enjoy this now,” said Kuss, playing down his chances of putting in a push for the red jersey all the way to Madrid.

An integral part of his team’s overall victories in both the Giro and Tour this summer, Kuss was one of four Jumbo-Visma riders in the day’s break alongside Dutch champion Dylan van Baarle, Hungarian champion Attila Valter and Slovenia’s Jan Tratnik.

“It was an incredibly hard stage,” Kuss said. “We wanted to try and go in the breakaway – just to test QuickStep. We knew it would be a hard day to control so that was our primary goal. Dylan, Attila and Jan rode super – I have to thank them a lot for the work they did.

“For the whole day I felt super, super good. I was only thinking about when to go, when to try and make the difference. For the whole climb I was just enjoying the environment that we have in the Vuelta. It’s always a special race for me.”

The initial moment came three kilometres from the finish when Kuss reacted to an attack from Colombia’s Einer Rubio (Movistar). Joining forces with French duo Martinez and Bardet, the trio snuffed out the threat from Rubio before Kuss kicked on alone with 2km remaining – just as team-mate Roglic blew the red jersey group apart behind.

With Kuss and Martinez separated by just eight seconds, Soler is up to third place at 51 seconds with Dutch veteran Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious) into fourth at 1’41”. Four other riders who featured in the breakaway – Steff Cras (TotalEnergies), Landa, Jefferson Cepeda (Caja Rural) and David de la Cruz (Astana-Qazaqstan) – also rose above Evenepoel in the top 10.

Soudal-QuickStep’s difficult day was compounded by the loss of Evenepoel’s team-mate Andrea Bagioli with illness, the Italian leaving the race alongside compatriot Italy’s Lorenzo Milese (Team dsm-firmenich) and the Australian duo Michael Hepburn (Jayco-AlUla) and Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates).

The GC favourites will now get the chance to rest and recuperate on Friday’s Stage 7, a largely flat 200km ride from Utiel to Oliva, which reopens the door to the sprinters – and a possible hat-trick of wins for the Australian green jersey Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck).

This is followed by a weekend in the mountains that will show us whether Evenepoel’s wobble on the Pico del Buitre was just a blip, or if red-hot Jumbo-Visma have seized the initiative in this exciting 78th edition of La Vuelta.

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