Sepp Kuss won the sixth stage of the Vuelta a España with a solo ride to the summit finish atop the Pico del Buitre, having attacked from the day's break.
The Jumbo-Visma rider was part of a very strong 40-rider early break that gained more than six minutes as it headed towards the cat-one Pico del Buitre – the only major climb of the day. That had been whittled down considerably by three kilometres to go when Kuss attacked, quickly building a lead.
The Durango, CO rider clearly enjoyed the experience, grinning from ear-to-ear as he high-fived fans throughout the final 50 metres.
"The whole day I felt super super good," Kuss said afterwards. "I was only thinking about when to go, when to try and make the difference. The whole climb I was just enjoying the environment that we have in the Vuelta."
Meanwhile, back down the slopes, Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quick Step) was not enjoying his day, giving away time to key rivals Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma).
The Belgian had made no secret of his intention to give away the leader's red jersey – and did so to Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) – but conceding time to Roglič and Vingegaard was certainly not part of the plan.
Evenepoel now lies ninth on GC with Roglič and Vingegaard 11th and 12th, just five and 11 seconds behind him respectively. Kuss is second, eight second behind leader Martinez.
How it happened
The stage took riders from La Vall d'Uixo, very nearly on Spain's mid-eastern coast, inland to the Observatorio Astrofísico de Javalambre, atop the cat-one Pico del Buitre – a distance of 183.5km.
It took some time, but a group of 40 riders eventually prised itself clear with around 50km covered, following the day's first climb – the cat-three Puerto de Arenillas.
Despite the fact (or maybe because) it contained riders the calibre of Kuss, his team-mates Dylan Van Baarle and Jan Tratnik, Wout Poels and Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) and Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates), it gained six minutes on the peloton, with Evenepoel and his Soudal-Quick Step team doing their best to keep it under control.
Come the final climb, the break had been whittled down somewhat but still had nearly four minutes on the peloton.
With Kuss et al fighting it out for victory ahead, bringing it back was always going to be difficult, but the biggest surprise came when Roglič, clearly sensing weakness, attacked Evenepoel with around 4km to go, and immediately opened a gap.
He was joined by team-mates Vingegaard and Attila Valter, as well as Enric Mas (Movistar), all seeking to take advantage.
Evenepoel rallied in the final kilometre, succeeding in limiting his losses on Roglič to 32 seconds, but it will have been a psychological blow.
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