Vuelta stage 20 report: Poels pounces to stage victory as Kuss keeps red, thank goodness

If you’ve been hiding from the Vuelta after the drama of its third week, it’s finally safe to come out: Sepp Kuss is still in red.

Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious) wins stage 20 of the 2023 Vuelta a España. Photo: © Cor Vos

Kit Nicholson
by Kit Nicholson 16.09.2023 Photography by
Cor Vos
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Up and down all day, stage 20 was another one for the breakaway, and Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) was determined to add another win to his superb 2023 tally. However, it was Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) who had the craft and power to overhaul his four surviving breakaway rivals in the sprint for the line, adding a Vuelta victory to stage 15 at the Tour de France this summer.

More than 10 minutes after the breakaway took the day, fourth-overall Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) led home the GC group at the end of what was ultimately a quiet outing for them. Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) had tried to light a spark in the race for fourth on the final climb, but Jumbo-Visma kept control, and the top three conceded a few inconsequential seconds to cross the line together: champion-in-waiting Sepp Kuss flanked by second and third overall Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič.

Raise your hand if you’re as relieved as Sepp looks right now.

Brief results:

Is that Roglič finally playing domestique?

Brief analysis:

Poels makes his move; a thing of beauty.

Quote of the day:

Sepp Kuss, ‘The Eagle of Durango’, is a little over 24 hours from winning the 2023 Vuelta a España, the third Grand Tour he’s started and finished this season (just read that again … Yep, still true). It’s been touch and go and times this week, but he’s proved himself, and on stage 20, he was the outright leader of the race and within his team.

“Primož did a lot of work for me there on the last climb and on the flat with Jonas. It was something I never imagined,” Kuss said after stage 20, which he finished arm in arm with the teammates who’ll join him on the overall podium tomorrow. “It was a super special moment. To be able to relax that much in the last kilometre of a mountain stage with your two teammates is just really cool. It hasn’t sunk in yet.”

What’s next?

The Vuelta culminates in a nice and simple – hopefully – sprint on stage 21. At 101.5 km, it’s pretty short, and it’ll feel even shorter once the processional phase is out of the way. The peloton hits the finishing laps in central Madrid after 49 km, and on the tenth passage of the line, expect to see green jersey-wearer Kaden Groves, Juan Sebastián Molano and Alberto Dainese duke it out in an effort to add to their earlier sprint victories.

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