Alright, let’s all take a deep breath. The Vuelta is finally over. What a wild ride it’s been.
It feels like forever ago that Soudal Quick-Step was completing its stage 1 team time trial in the dark. A lot has happened since then: more weather-related chaos; Remco Evenepoel taking red, imploding, then bouncing back to win two more stages; Sep Kuss taking the overall lead; Sepp Kuss fighting to stop his teammates from taking the lead from him; Sepp Kuss finally winning the thing; Jumbo-Visma sweeping the podium. It’s been a lot to take in.
To wrap up our coverage from the 2023 Vuelta a España, let’s take a look back at the race courtesy of a couple photos from each stage. These photos come courtesy of Kristof Ramon and Cor Vos and tell the story of a most memorable edition of the Spanish Grand Tour.
Heavy rain, a technical circuit, and a schedule that pushed the stage 1 TTT into the evening didn’t make for the safest (or most popular) combination. DSM took stage honours, propelling Lorenzo Milesi into the first red leader’s jersey. The rain again had an impact on stage 2, forcing stage times to be taken well before the finish. Andreas Kron took the stage win with a late solo attack. Defending champ Remco Evenepoel started the Vuelta as one of the favourites, and lived up to the hype with a win on stage 3. He crashed just after the finish line, copping a nasty gash to his forehead before making his way to the podium to take the leader’s jersey. “Hey, Jonas, over here. It’s me, your only GC rival* that’s not on your own team.” (*For now) Kaden Groves took out the sprint to win stage 4 … … then promptly did the same the following day, this time in green. Note two-time world time trial champ Filippo Ganna on the right finishing second in the bunch sprint. You might think that this is Evenepoel waving to the crowd on stage 5, but he’s actually just a really big Spice Girls fan. The groundwork for Kuss’s overall victory was laid on stage 6 when the American won solo from the breakaway. Lenny Martinez, second on the day, took the overall lead. Stage 7 came down to a bunch sprint where Geoffrey Soupe (far right) took a surprise win … … much to the delight of he and his TotalEnergies teammates. What would a Vuelta gallery be without at least one photo of the beautiful scenery? Here’s the peloton on the way from Dénia to Xorret de Catí on stage 8. Primož Roglič won the day, taking out the sprint from a small group … … but finishing in seventh was Roglič’s teammate Kuss, who moved into the overall lead. Lennard Kämna on his way to a solo win from the breakaway on stage 9 … … from a group that also contained Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier. Filippo Ganna won the stage 10 ITT … … while Kuss rode a better time trial than many expected, holding onto red. This photo of David de la Cruz doesn’t advance the narrative in any way, but it is a cool photo. This is presumably a promo shot for his upcoming nu-metal/hip hop record. Back to the racing. Jesús Herrada won from the breakaway on stage 11. After a couple of near misses earlier in the Vuelta, Juan Sebastián Molano won the bunch gallop into Zaragoza on stage 12. Love a good celebration from the winner’s teammate further back in the bunch. With nine stages (and a bunch of climbing) to come, Kuss was still in red, and maybe starting to believe. The story of Jumbo-Visma’s GC tilt would dominate headlines for much of the back half of the race. Kuss was leading, but that didn’t stop Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard from riding as if he wasn’t. Like on stage 13 where Vingegaard rode to a solo win, ahead of Kuss and Roglič. That result put all three Jumbo-Visma riders on the GC podium, with Kuss 1:37 ahead of Roglič. A clear enough advantage that they’d ride for Kuss, right? After losing almost half an hour on stage 13, dropping from third overall to 19th, Evenepoel bounced back incredibly well on stage 14. He and Romain Bardet got away … … then the Belgian champ rode clear to win the stage comfortably. After a rollercoaster 24 hours, Evenepoel was understandably emotional when he crossed the line. Riders bringing their dogs to a bike race? Great. When those dogs have official accreditation for the race? Even better. Rui Costa wound back the clock on stage 15 to win from the breakaway. The Jumbo-Visma story continued on stage 16 with Vingegaard riding away from Kuss to win the stage. He was sombre at the finish, dedicating his win to teammate Nathan Van Hooydonck who was seriously injured in a car crash that morning. Kuss and Vingegaard were all smiles and hugs after the finish, but Kuss’s lead was now just 29 seconds to Vingegaard. On stage 17, on the mighty Altu de L’Angliru, Roglič and Vingegaard again rode away from Kuss in a truly baffling display. Roglič won the stage, ahead of Vingegaard, narrowing Kuss’s lead to just eight seconds. “What is going on? Your own teammates – they attacked you!” Stage 18 was another Remco Evenepoel statement piece. He might have been out of the GC fight … … but winning another mountain stage solo, by 4:44, certainly sent a message. Stage 19 was decided in a bunch sprint … … with Alberto Dainese taking his first stage win at the Vuelta (to go with two stage wins at the Giro). Second in the sprint again was Filippo Ganna (not pictured). Stage 20 was the final chance for the breakaway specialists. Wout Poels took the win from a reduced group that also included KOM leader Remco Evenepoel. Behind, Jumbo-Visma was all smiles. Despite having his leadership tested (almost exclusively by his own teammates) Kuss was going to win the Vuelta. The final stage was another sprint, with Kaden Groves taking his third stage win and locking up the green jersey ahead of Evenepoel. There’s Ganna again on the left, taking second place in a bunch sprint for the third time this Vuelta. Bizarre tactics aside, Jumbo-Visma had a terrific Vuelta. Five stage wins, all three podium places on GC(!), and the team classification. Oh, and they won all three Grand Tours this season too (hence the pink, yellow, and red stripes on their jerseys here). Not bad. What did you think of this story?
😐Meh 😊️Solid 🤩Excellent