Remco resilient, Jumbo-Visma rampant: Deconstructing the GC damage of a wild day at the Vuelta a España

“], “filter”: { “nextExceptions”: “img, blockquote, div”, “nextContainsExceptions”: “img, blockquote, a.btn, a.o-button”} }”>

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members!
>”,”name”:”in-content-cta”,”type”:”link”}}”>Download the app.

Remco on the ropes. Sepp soaring into GC contention. “G” going backward.

Stage 6 of the Vuelta a España served one of the most explosive days of classification racing of this season.

Lenny Martinez rode into a youngest-ever red jersey. Remco Evenepoel bent but didn’t break. Jumbo-Visma unleashed its “triple threat.” Geraint Thomas was stuck in the wrong gear. And Juan Ayuso lived up to the hype.

So what does Thursday’s wild day on the roads up to Javalambre mean for the stages to come?

First, here’s Velo’s classification of the main men for the maillot rojo:

1. Lenny Martinez (Groupama FDJ): Red jersey
2. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma): +8
3. Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious): +51
4. Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step): +2:47
5. Enric Mas (Movistar): +2:50
6. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma): +2:52
7. Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma): +2:58
8. Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost): +3:03
9. Juan Ayuso (UAE Emirates): +3:06
10. Cian Uijtdebroeks (Bora-Hansgrohe): +3:08
11. João Almeida (UAE Emirates): +3:18
12. Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora Hansgrohe): +3:36
13. Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers): +4:57
14. Thymen Arensman (Ineos Grenadiers): +5:10

Sorry, Sepp Kuss fans and members of the #freeLanda movement, but it’s Evenepoel that’s the first true reference point when thinking forward to stage 21 in Madrid.

So here’s Velo’s GC of the galácticos:

1. Remco Evenepoel: Defending champion, Belgium’s own “aero bullet”
2. Enric Mas: +3
3. Jonas Vingegaard: +5
4. Primož Roglič: +11
5. Juan Ayuso: +19
6. João Almeida: +31
7. Geraint Thomas: +2:10

Let’s dive into the top-line detail:

Kuss the wildcard in Jumbo-Visma’s triple threat

Sepp Kuss
Sepp Kuss high-fived his way into GC contention. (Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

Jumbo-Visma should have been drinking several cerveza sin alcohol Thursday.

Kuss earned his third grand tour stage win and soared into the GC frame. Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard put more than 30 seconds into Vuelta nemesis Evenepoel, and none of its “triple threat” has the red jersey to worry about.

Although Kuss is now way ahead of all the classification favorites, he isn’t likely to turn a hand to classification racing.

Even a team as deep as Jumbo-Visma would struggle to support three leaders for the next 14 stages, and the “Eagle of Durango” will be needed more than ever later in the race when Roglič and Vingegaard are beating back this deep GC pack.

“I don’t know where I could gain anything to be in the red jersey. It was everything about having the stage win,” Kuss said Thursday night. “I am more than happy with that, and we have Primož and Jonas to chase the red jersey.”

Jumbo-Visma can play a pack of tactical games with Roglič and Vingegaard more or less on-time with Evenepoel, and Kuss a metaphorical kilometer up the road.

Questions rumbled around about the form and health of both Roglič and Vingegaard after Evenepoel sprinted away from them Monday in Andorra, but both hailed good legs Friday.

Kuss will leak time to all the GC galácticos in Tuesday’s time trial but won’t likely lose three minutes unless he chooses to.

Is the race Jumbo-Visma’s to lose? It’s too early to say, but things are certainly pointing the Dutch crew’s way.

Remco on the ropes but resilient

Evenepoel was gapped but pulled it back Thursday. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Evenepoel bent but didn’t break Thursday on the ruthless slopes of the Javalambre.

His race briefly looked done with Roglič leaving him choking on fumes around four kilometers from the summit. A resilient rebound saw Soudal Quick-Step’s talisman lose “only” 32 seconds in a result that showed Evenepoel’s title defense is far from done.

“I didn’t feel like I was going really all out, it felt more a controlled pace, but I just could not go over that limit,” Evenepoel rued Thursday. “You just have some days like that and today it was my turn to not have the best legs.”

Evenepoel suffered an off-day last year at the Vuelta when he lost time to Roglič on the Sierra de la Pandora and ended up dominating the race for the rojo. And while Evenepoel’s already under-scrutiny team lost Andrea Bagioli to a DNF on Thursday’s 6th stage, Soudal Quick-Step won’t be losing faith in a second straight Vuelta victory just yet.

“If this was a bad day, then it’s OK,” Evenepoel told reporters Thursday.

Riders like Roglič, Vingegaard, and Ayuso may see blood in the water after Evenepoel’s struggles Friday.

But he’s likely to match if not better all the GC galácticos Tuesday in the 26km ITT, and like Jumbo-Visma director Merijn Zeeman said – an angry Remco is a dangerous Remco.

“We had to take back time, he will now look for revenge,” Zeeman said. “We still have two weeks to go.”

Ineos Grenadiers’ big diesel engines caught in the wrong gear

Is “G” out of GC for good at this Vuelta? (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Thomas is renowned as a rider slow to come to the bubble.

He leaked time on the Andorra summit Monday but limited his losses to keep his hopes alive, but losing another 90 seconds Friday could mark the end of the veteran’s GC quest.

“I felt better than I did in Andorra, but still lacking a bit compared to the top guys,” Thomas said after the stage. “It was a long hard day, but there’s plenty more to come … we’ll see what happens.”

Thomas could come good in the weeks to come, but a two-minute gap to a half-dozen top rivals is a deficit not even this wiliest of warhorses is likely to bring back.

Ineos Grenadiers co-captain Thymen Arensman – another rider with a habit of being slow out the blocks – also lost the wheels Friday. It feels like the race is riding away from the former GC dominator right now.

It will be interesting to see if Ineos Grenadiers sticks to the classification plan or twists to hunting stages for the rest of this race.

Spain, have hope: Ayuso, Mas nestled among the galácticos

Ayuso is living up to the hype so far in his second grand tour.

Mikel Landa rolled back the years and rode into GC contention on the Javalambre. But it’s with the newer generation of Juan Ayuso and Enric Mas where Spain’s hopes will truly lie.

Ayuso came into this Vuelta the true wildcard to watch, and he’s more than living up to his status as Spain’s most promising star.

The 20-year-old has ridden like a rider with a decade more experience through the first week and pulled another perfectly measured performance Thursday.

“Roglič attacked first quite strongly and Vingegaard followed after, Ayuso said Thursday. “Instead of reacting and risking blowing up I kept my rhythm and fought my way back and managed to almost lose no time.”

Ayuso is only a handful of seconds away from Jumbo-Visma and is showing all the nous needed to stay in its wheels through the weeks to come.

And Mas?

Nobody knew how Movistar’s team captain would go after he crashed out of the Tour de France and chose to keep clear of racing all summer.

Well, so far, he’s not missed a beat.

Tuesday’s time trial will be the ultimate “race of truth” for Mas. History suggests he could lose anywhere between one and three – yes, three – minutes on riders like Vingegaard and Evenepoel in the stage 10 leg-burner.

What next? Tuesday’s time trial the ultimate test

Evenepoel demolished the GC in last year’s Vuelta TT. (Photo: DAVID STOCKMAN/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

The GC shifted significantly Thursday, but some say the shape of this Vuelta won’t become clear until Tuesday.

After a sprinter stage Friday, there’s potential for Remco and Co. to throw more haymakers in steep kicker finales on both days of the weekend.

Tuesday’s stage 10 time trial – the only solo effort of the Vuelta – could prove crucial.

It’s flat, it’s fast, and at 25.8km, it’s just about long enough to bring some serious gaps. All eyes will be on time trial toppers Evenepoel, Vingegaard, and Roglič to make hay.

Don’t expect to see young prodigy Martinez in red when the dust settles Tuesday night.

Source link