GCN Stat Attack: Cillian Kelly looks at the Vuelta a España’s history makers

Lenny Martinez, Kaden Groves and Primož Roglič are just a few of the riders setting records this week

Clock18:00, Tuesday 5th September 2023
This week's World of Cycling episode is out now on GCN+

© GCN

This week's World of Cycling episode is out now on GCN+

In last week’s GCN Stat Attack, Lorenzo Milesi was one of our leading record-setters having taken the lead of the Vuelta a España following stage 1. The Italian had become the youngest holder of the Vuelta’s leader’s jersey since Miguel Induráin in 1985. But that record in itself came tumbling during the first week of the race, with Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) going one better than the dsm-firmenich rider.

As Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) climbed his way to the day’s honours on stage 6, Martinez valiantly battled to limit his losses to the American in the closing kilometre. Coming over the line just 26 seconds behind Kuss, the Frenchman took over the lead of the Vuelta at just over 20 years of age. This makes him not only the youngest ever leader of the Vuelta, but in fact the youngest ever leader of any of the Grand Tours.

Read more: Sepp Kuss wins stage 6 as Lenny Martinez rides into red

Remarkably, no rider has ever led the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France or Vuelta a España at a younger age. The only rider who could lay claim to this record is the winner of the 1904 Tour de France, Henri Cornet, but this would be false as a result of a quirk that plagued many of the early Tours de France. Unfortunately for Cornet, he never actually led that race because of those riders in front of him on GC who cheated their way into the lead.

Indeed, the first four riders on GC and all the stage winners were retroactively disqualified from the 1904 Tour after an investigation by the Union Vélocipédique Française - including the reigning champion, Maurice Garin. The riders were found guilty of travelling by train to cheat, resulting in fifth-placed Cornet being awarded the victory four months later, despite having never led the race.

For his part, Cornet received a warning from the organisers for receiving a lift by a car… And leader’s jerseys weren’t actually a thing at the Tour de France until 15 years later!

Anyway, back to the Vuelta and the fortunes of young Lenny Martinez, who unfortunately - for him, at least - relinquished the lead of the race after cracking on the Xorret de Catí during stage 8. Their fortunes ever entwined during this Vuelta, it was Kuss who pulled on the red jersey for the first time in his career on Saturday evening.

Read more: Sepp Kuss takes the lead of the Vuelta as Primož Roglič wins stage 8

We have become rather used to seeing Americans in the lead of Grand Tours, thanks to Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong, but would you believe that Kuss is the first American in a decade to lead a men’s Grand Tour? Not since Chris Horner at the 2013 Vuelta has another American worn the pink, yellow or red jerseys, with some even tipping Kuss to replicate Horner’s feat of wearing the red jersey all the way to Madrid.

When asked if he could follow in Horner’s wheel tracks after stage 8, Kuss responded with more than a wry chuckle.

“We’ll see. I think that Vuelta he did was super impressive, so for the third week I will need to get some 44cm handlebars, get some leverage and go on the pedals up the Angliru like Chris Horner!”

As Kuss was rising to the top on behalf of American cycling, it was actually his Jumbo-Visma teammate Primož Roglič who won stage 8 to take his first victory of the race. In doing so, the Slovenian brought his tally of Grand Tour stage wins to a whopping 18, which, if you only consider riders still currently racing, pulls him level with Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies).

Read more: 'Roglič's sprint was not really fast' - Remco Evenepoel

The only active rider with more wins than these two is Astana Qazaqstan’s Mark Cavendish with a simply astonishing 54 - that’s right - fifty four! However, as we are led to believe, Cavendish will be retiring at the end of the season. As will Sagan… at least from road racing.

Sagan’s place in the bunch sprints has long been taken by the young whipper snappers, one of which is Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Kaden Groves. The Australian has solidified himself as one of the peloton’s best sprinters at this year’s Vuelta - despite the weak competition - winning back-to-back on stages 4 and 5. Incredibly, he is the first Australian ever to win back-to-back Grand Tour stages. Not even Robbie McEwen did that, I couldn’t believe it!

Read more:

To give McEwen his due, the Aussie won back-to-back road stages at the 2006 Giro d’Italia, but was denied Groves’ feat due to a team time trial falling between his victories on stages 4 and 6 that year.

The first block of racing at the Vuelta came to an end with Lennard Kämna’s stage 9 victory on Sunday, a win that earned him the Grand Tour treble. He has now won a stage of the Giro, Tour and Vuelta - exactly one in each.

Read more: Lennard Kämna sails to breakaway win on stage 9

The Bora-Hansgrohe puncheur is the 106th rider to have completed the treble and the first German to do so since John Degenkolb in 2018, but only one other member of the treble club has won exactly one stage in each Grand Tour - Juan Manuel Gárate.

Some might say that Tyler Hamilton also achieved this, which would be dubious to say the least. He won one stage each at the 2002 Giro d’Italia, 2003 Tour de France and 2004 Vuelta a España. He later confessed to doping in May 2011, and his blood samples during the 2004 Vuelta showed a ‘foreign blood population.’

These dopers sure are a pain in the backside for us statisticians…

This week's World of Cycling episode is out now on GCN+, click here to watch!

If you head to our Vuelta a España landing page, you will find everything you need to know about the race, including our race preview, the route, start list and individual stage previews. Check it out for all that and more.

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