Five things we learned from the Vuelta a España 2023: Sepp Kuss is the real deal and Ineos still lacking

Here's what we learned from the final Grand Tour of the 2023 season

Sepp Kuss
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Alpecin-Deceuninck could have a selection headache for next year’s Tour de France 

Kaden Groves

(Image credit: Getty Images)

With Kaden Groves’ success, Alpecin-Deceuninck may well have found themselves with a potential selection headache in the build up to next year’s Tour de France.

Groves dominated the points classification in Spain, finishing with 315 points in total which was accumulated via three stage victories and various breakaway efforts. Granted, the field of sprinters he faced wasn’t necessarily the best, but you can only beat what’s in front of you, and the Australian rider comfortably did that.

Besides, away from the Vuelta, Groves has already shown this season that he’s capable of beating a higher level of opposition. Back in May, the 24-year-old out sprinted Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious), Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) and Mark Cavendish to win stage five of the Giro d’Italia in Salerno.

Alpecin currently have arguably the best sprinter in the world on their books, Jasper Philipsen. However, if Groves starts next season in decent form then he could put himself in with a shout of making the Belgian squad’s line up for the French Grand Tour.

Sepp Kuss proves he's the real deal

Sepp Kuss

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s been evident for some time that Sepp Kuss is undoubtedly one of the very best climbers in the world. However, few would ever have imagined him climbing to the Grand Tour winning heights that he’s now reached whilst in the colours of Jumbo-Visma.

For so long, Kuss has been nothing more than just a well oiled cog in the Jumbo winning machine - almost ever present in their Grand Tour success in recent years - but his identity as a bike rider finally shifted on the roads of Spain this summer. 

The Dutch squad would authoritatively stamp their dominance on yet another Grand Tour but this time it was a different man in the race leader’s jersey. It wasn’t the taciturn Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard or the robotic Primož Roglič, it was the smiling American from Durango, Colorado who finally got his moment in the sun.

After Kuss found himself in the Maillot Rojo, some claimed that Jumbo’s willingness to work for him as their leader was the team “gifting” one of their most loyal servants the least sought after Grand Tour in the calendar, rewarding him for his many years of service in the process.

Meanwhile after the chaos on the Angliru, others claimed it was the Dutch squad reckoning on the PR disaster they would have faced if the likeable American hadn’t been given the level of support many felt he deserved from his teammates.

Although you could make the case that Kuss is the type of rider who would have already found himself in this sort of position if he’d been employed elsewhere in the WorldTour peloton.

Kuss has finished well inside the top 20 in seven of the Grand Tour’s that he’s ridden in the past four years. In the right team, with the right riders around him, the 29-year-old could easily have already made the step up that he’s now achieved.  

Remco Evenepoel demonstrated a whole new level of mental strength  

Remco Evenepoel

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As we all know, cycling can be such a brutal, cruel and unforgiving sport. Once the mountains arrive in any Grand Tour situation there is simply nowhere to hide, and if your legs aren’t in the fight, any goals you may have had will evaporate before your eyes.

That’s the exact situation Remco Evenepoel found himself in on stage 13 when his legs gave up on him on the slopes of the Col du Tourmalet. The Belgian former World Champion lost stacks of time on that fateful Friday afternoon which forced him out of contention for overall victory.

At that point, it would have been so easy to just give up, pack your bags and withdraw from the race, but that’s simply not in Evenepoel’s nature. The 23-year-old Belgian is stronger and wiser than you would expect for someone so young.

Instead of wallowing in self-pity, Evenepoel woke up the next morning and steamrollered all opposition to win stage 14 in Larra-Belagua. And he wasn’t done there. Evenepoel won again on stage 18 at La Cruz de Linares which also sealed his victory in the races’ mountains classification.

Evenepoel may not have arrived in Madrid on Sunday in the general classification position he’d have liked but the Belgian ended the race with three stage wins in total to his name and the polka-dot jersey on his shoulders.

That’s bouncebackability right there. 

There’s hope for Spanish cycling yet  

Juan Ayuso

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Jumbo may have pulled off a clean sweep of their home Grand Tour podium but there’s very much hope for Spanish cycling yet. 

21-year-old Juan Ayuso won his first ever Grand Tour classification, taking home the white jersey as the best young rider, and finished fourth overall. If it wasn’t for Jumbo’s strength in depth at this year’s race, it’s likely Ayuso would have finished on the podium.

The UAE Team Emirates rider appears to be making steady progress in his development as a racer, and all the signs point to him becoming one of the very best.

Behind Ayuso, Mikel Landa of Bahrain Victorious and Enric Mas (Movistar) finished fifth and sixth respectively. Landa is still yet to deliver on the potential he displayed in his early days, and will switch to a domestique role at Soudal Quick-Step next season but Mas could yet come good.

The 28-year-old has consistently shown himself to be one of the best climbers in the sport yet strangely lacks the results that his potential has deserved across the years. The Movistar rider has only ever won a single Grand Tour stage, which came at the 2018 Vuelta, but has finished runner up in his home Grand Tour on three occasions.

With Mas it feels like if luck were to go his way just once in the seasons to come, he could finally then reach the top step that he has long aimed for. 

Ineos still lack a rider for future GC challenges

Geraint Thomas

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you had sat and studied the GC on Sunday once the race had wrapped up in Madrid, one thing was staggeringly clear. Ineos Grenadiers still lack a rider capable of seriously challenging Jonas Vingegaard, Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar’s dominance in a Grand Tour setting in the years to come.

Not a single rider from the British team finished inside the top ten.

Yes, Geraint Thomas very nearly won the Giro in May, although the 37-year-old Welshman can’t continue at the top level of the sport indefinitely. Thomas has said as much himself in recent months.

Carlos Rodríguez feels like their best hope currently on the team. The Spaniard finished fifth and won a stage at this year’s Tour de France, but still needs further development before he can mount a serious challenge.

The team have also recently lost a handful of key riders, including Tao Geoghegan Hart to Lidl-Trek, which will leave them short in both the GC challengers and domestique departments. There were whispers of a big money move for Remco Evenepoel throughout the summer, although that appears to have now stalled.

The once dominant team ends the season yet again without a Grand Tour victory. Ineos have some serious work to do if they are to return to the heights of their former identity as Team Sky in the years ahead. 

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Tom Thewlis

Tom is a News and Features Writer at Cycling Weekly, and previously worked in communications at Oxford Brookes University. He has reported from a wide range of races and events including the Tour de France and World Championships.