Jonas Vingegaard attacked out of an elite lead group to take a solo win on stage 13 of the Vuelta a España on a day that saw the Jumbo-Visma team take complete control and Remco Evenepoel dropped early and convincingly. The short but arduous Tourmalet stage was always going to be pivotal to the race, and no team rose to the occasion like Jumbo, which controlled the action handily, took the top three spots on the stage, and now has the top three spots on overall as well – raising the distinct possibility of an unprecedented podium sweep at a Grand Tour.
- Stage 13 was always underlined as a key stage, but the action exceeded expectations from the start. When both João Almeida and Evenepoel (6th and 3rd on GC, respectively) were dropped early it was a sign that things were going pear-shaped in a big way. Almeida fought hard to stay close at first, but Evenepoel shipped 1:30 on the Aubisque alone and, despite being surrounded by teammates, never got back to anywhere close to the peloton. He eventually shut it down and crossed the line 27 minutes behind Vingegaard.
- It’s impossible to overstate the degree of Jumbo-Visma’s control of the stage. For most of the race, the “peloton” hovered around 20-30 riders, fully five or six of whom were in the distinctive yellow-and-black Jumbo kit. An early probing attack by Bahrain-Victorious’ Mikel Landa was covered by none other than Tour de France winner Vingegaard, which set the tone for the day. And if Robert Gesink got any more TV time, GCN+ will have to pay him likeness rights; the Dutch climber spent almost the whole day on the front doing a massive amount of work for his three leaders. The result was a cautious group of challengers reluctant to expose themselves with attacks, and Vingegaard’s move from about six km out was the only real aggression on the final climb.
- The general classification was dramatically reshaped, with Jumbo cementing the top three spots, Evenepoel tumbling far down the standings, and Almeida and Marc Soler falling as well. Their teammate Juan Ayuso is now the best-placed rider not on Jumbo, but he’s 2:37 behind Kuss and almost a minute behind Vingegaard for third.
- Well. The Tourmalet stage promised to answer a lot of questions about the race, but we didn’t expect one of the answers to be that Evenepoel’s GC ambitions are toast and maybe his Vuelta entirely. It’s still a puzzle as to what exactly happened to the defending Vuelta champion, who’s looked on solid-if-not-spectacular form for much of the race until today. Even though Evenepoel shut down his chase, losing more than 25 minutes is more than just a bad day, but immediately post-race all we have is speculation as to the cause. Still, there were few images more jarring than the sight of Evenepoel still pedaling to the finish as Vingegaard and Kuss did their podium ceremonies. Whatever the cause, it’s the second abrupt end in a row for an Evenepoel Grand Tour GC campaign.
- For much of this season, Evenepoel transfer rumors have been a constant source of discussion. While those had quieted down some during the Vuelta, his implosion may spike all talk of a move to Ineos. While Soudal Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere had openly acknowledged Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe’s pursuit of his star, Evenepoel himself was far cagier. If there is real interest or negotiations – and the amount of talk around it suggests it’s more than just speculation – it’s worth wondering if Remco missed the window. His appeal has long been built on the idea that he can challenge riders like Vingegaard and Primož Roglič, a matchup that’s been mostly hypothetical until now (Roglič DNF’d last year’s Vuelta). One bad day doesn’t spike Evenepoel’s status by any stretch, but it certainly doesn’t help his value.
- As for Jumbo, today’s stage will only increase questions about the team’s overall strategy and its hierarchy. Was Vingegaard’s attack on the Tourmalet part of a larger plan or is the team letting the riders sort themselves on the road? It’s hard to imagine a scenario at the Tour like we saw today with Kuss covering Enric Mas’ move and then launching two counters with only Vingegaard up the road. So far, Jumbo’s riders haven’t said much – itself a kind of strategy that keeps other teams guessing. The less is said the more it’ll look like there is no grand plan, but body language at the finish between Kuss and Vingegaard betrayed little sign of tension between the two.
- The Vuelta is always a spot for young riders to make their Grand Tour debuts, and today we saw diverging fortunes for two debutants. Groupama-FDJ’s Lenny Martinez looked to be struggling a bit on the day’s first climb of the Col d’Aubisque and was eventually dropped on the Tourmalet to fall down the standings after losing more than eight minutes. Meanwhile, Bora-Hansgrohe’s Cian Uijtdebroeks enjoyed a fantastic day to climb with the lead group all the way to the finish. Uijtdebroeks is now ninth overall, five spots higher than when he started.
Quote of the day
“I think that’s even better than the plan.”
-Vingegaard, characteristically brief when asked if things had gone according to the team’s plan.
Up next: stage 14
If it’s a Vuelta stage, it’s probably an uphill finish. Stage 14 continues the fun with this 156.2 km ride from Sauveterre-de-Béarn to Larra-Belagua. Riders get three more big climbs, starting with the HC Col Hourcère and Puerto de Larrau, finished off with the first-category summit finish on Larra-Belagua. After the GC destruction today, it may be a day for the breakaway as teams try to take stock of Jumbo’s control and how to break it. If Jumbo wants to spread the love, it could be a day for Roglič, but a breakaway is more likely: EF Education-Easypost’s Jonathan Caicedo or Bora-Hansgrohe’s Lennard Kämna are intriguing candidates to watch.
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