Sepp Kuss set to win historic Vuelta a España as Wout Poels claims stage 20

American poised for an unexpected but worthy Grand Tour victory in Madrid

Sepp Kuss with Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Barring accident or late drama in Madrid on Sunday, Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) will win the 2023 Vuelta a España, and become the first American to win a Grand Tour in a decade. 

The Jumbo-Visma rider finished arm-in-arm with his teammates on Saturday's stage 20, which saw Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) take victory in Guadarrama. 

Poels went long in a five-up sprint to the line, holding off a late charge from the polka dot jersey wearer, Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step). 

There were no major changes to the overall standings on the race's penultimate stage, and with an unwritten agreement not to contest the red jersey on the final day, Kuss is poised to take a maiden Vuelta win. 

"We made it," the 29-year-old told his partner as they embraced after the line, swarmed by photographers. "It's nice and warm in this bubble of people!"

On Sunday, Jumbo-Visma will become the first men’s team in history to claim all three Grand Tours in the same year. Interestingly, too, all three winners are set to stand on the podium in Madrid, with Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard in second place and Giro d'Italia winner Primož Roglič in third.

In a bustle of bodies after stage 20, Kuss turned to Vingegaard, smiling, and said: "You next." 

Wout Poels beats Remco Evenepoel in a sprint

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The penultimate stage of this year’s Vuelta offered a sawtooth profile, with 10 category-three climbs between Manzanares El Real and Guadarrama. 

Not long after the flag drop, a mega 31-man breakaway escaped, containing Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) and Evenepoel, winner of three stages already. 

The group rode calmly throughout the afternoon, until an attack from Poels inside 15km to go tore through the serenity. The rangy Dutchman’s move almost proved the undoing of Evenepoel, who slipped off the back, but managed to catch back up on a descent. 

Coming into the finale, Poels launched his sprint first, choosing to go long through a sweeping left-hand bend. The 35-year-old, known for his climbing prowess, quickly put three bike lengths into his breakaway companions, and held a gap over a small rise in the road. 

Despite his best efforts, Evenepoel could not catch him. 

Kuss crossed the line together with Vingegaard and Roglič over 10 minutes later, the first American since Chris Horner in 2013 to win a Grand Tour. "It hasn't sunk in yet," the Jumbo-Visma rider said afterwards. 

Results

Vuelta a España stage 20 - Manzanares El Real to Guadarrama (207.8km)

1. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain Victorious, in 4-59-29
2. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Soudal Quick-Step
3. Pelayo Sánchez (Esp) Burgos-BH
4. Lennert Van Eetvelt (Bel) Lotto Dstny, all at same time
5. Marc Soler (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 4s
6. Rui Costa (Por) Intermarché-Circus-Wanty
7. Antonio Tiberi (Ita) Bahrain Victorious
8. Lennard Kämna (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
9. Romain Bardet (Fra) dsm-firmenich
10. Einer Rubio (Col) Movistar, all at 26s

General classification after stage 20

1. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma, in 74-23-42
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 17s
3. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-08
4. Juan Ayuso (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 3-44
5. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 4-03
6. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 4-14
7. Aleksandr Vlasov, Bora-Hansgrohe, at 8-19
8. Cian Uijtdebroeks (Bel) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 8-26
9. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 10-08
10. Santiago Buitrago (Col) Bahrain Victorious, at 12-04

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