Vuelta a España stage 6: Sepp Kuss wins stage as Jumbo-Visma dominate

Lenny Martinez takes red jersey as Remco Evenepoel shows cracks

Clock15:17, Thursday 31st August 2023
Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) won solo on the summit finish of stage 6 of the Vuelta a España

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) won solo on the summit finish of stage 6 of the Vuelta a España

Sepp Kuss danced his way to a first stage victory of the Vuelta a España, as Jumbo-Visma produced a tactical masterclass to put race leader Remco Evenepoel into difficult on the slopes of the final climb. For Kuss, Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard it was the day of dreams, but so too for Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ).

The young Frenchman was alongside Kuss in the day’s 42-man breakaway and produced a valiant ride on the final climb to cross the line 25 seconds down on the stage winner, but more significantly, close enough to propel him into the lead of the Vuelta. For Martinez, it was not disappointment but joy, as Groupama-FDJ’s latest prodigy pulled on the red jersey atop the Pico del Buitre.

Ineos Grenadiers were perhaps the biggest losers under Jumbo-Visma's onslaught.

Read more: Geraint Thomas sees Vuelta a España chances dented on brutal mountain stage

“It was an incredibly hard stage," reflected a delighted Kuss at the finish. "We wanted to try and go in the breakaway just to test Quick-Step. We knew it would be a hard day to control so that was the primary objective."

"The whole day I felt super super good. I was only thinking about when to go and when to try and make the difference. For me, to win a stage is just incredible. And we’ll see, I don’t know where I am in general [classification] now but it’s one day at a time, first I just have to enjoy this.”

A massive breakaway scares the peloton into an afternoon of tough work

The sixth stage of this year’s Vuelta a España promised exciting racing, featuring the second summit finish of the race and a route that essentially traversed uphill throughout the course of the afternoon. Within an hour of racing, it was already obvious that this was a day that would not disappoint.

Read more: GCN Stat Attack: Cillian Kelly crunches the numbers from the Vuelta a España's opening weekend

After a delayed start due to multiple mechanical issues within the peloton, it did not take long for attacks and mayhem to ensue on the stage that ventured from La Vall d'Uixó to Observatorio Astrofísico de Javalambre. The first to break away from the the pack were Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Dstny) - who else - and Diego Camargo (EF Education-EasyPost), shortly followed by Rui Costa of Intermarché-Circus-Wanty.

The trio were caught after 20km out front, but not before a crash had befallen the peloton that brought down the likes of Wilco Kelderman (Jumbo-Visma) and Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ), alongside riders from Cofidis, Lotto Dstny and Astana Qazaqstan. Wearing the white jersey on behalf of race leader Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step), Martinez was ushered back to the peloton by teammates Romain Grégoire and Sam Watson, whilst a mini crisis soon hit the team of the Belgian race leader.

Read more: Analysing the strength of Soudal Quick-Step's team to support Remco Evenepoel

With 146km still to ride, crosswinds across the inlands of Valencia tore the peloton in two, and Evenepoel’s team were caught on the wrong side of the split. Things went from bad to worse for the Belgian as his teammate Andrea Bagioli abandoned the race with illness, with rumours circling that a nasty bug has caught hold of the peloton and those known to have suffered include Louis Vervaeke (Soudal Quick-Step) and pre-race favourite, Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma).

There was no time for reflection out on the road, however, with the peloton hitting the first climb of the day in a state of panic and separation. Attacks from Andreas Kron (Lotto Dstny) and Jan Tratnik (Jumbo-Visma) were extinguished, and Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates) and Lorenzo Milesi (dsm-firmenich) became the latest men to abandon the race.

Jesús Herrada (Cofidis) swept up the maximum points over the summit of the Puerto de Arenillas and as the peloton barrelled towards the Alto Fuente de Rubielos, word emerged that Evenepoel’s group sat a minute and a half in arrears. Up front were the likes of Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) and Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ), whilst the battle to form the day’s definitive breakaway was sprawling.

It soon became clear that this front group would be the day’s extensive breakaway, whilst Evenepoel’s chasing group would be deemed the peloton. With 109km to ride, 42 riders were up the road and Evenepoel’s peloton sat four minutes down the road. Amongst the large breakaway were some notable names: Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost), Romain Bardet (dsm-firmenich), Martinez, Kuss, and Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious).

As live images began on GCN+ and Eurosport with 86km to ride, the front of the race had a six-minute lead on the peloton but had splintered into two groups. Movistar, Soudal Quick-Step and Ineos Grenadiers were sharing the pacing duties in the peloton, no doubt sporting a calm façade, but cautious of letting Kuss and Martinez too far off the leash.

Read more: Analysing Ineos Grenadiers' team for the Vuelta a España

In turn, the peloton committed to a valiant chase during the day’s middle hours and as they approached the final 50km, the front of the bunch looked more like a weekend chain gang, such was the intensity of their through-and-off approach. As the km to go ticker dipped under 40km, so too dipped the gap between the peloton and the 39-rider group out front - now hovering around the four-minute mark.

Sitting 31 seconds down on Martinez - also in the breakaway - at the start of the day, Soler picked up six bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint in a wily move as the breakaway entered the final climb of the day with 3:40 of an advantage over the peloton.

Jumbo-Visma put Thomas and Evenepoel in major trouble

With the most difficult parts of the climb still to come, it was Martinez’s teammate Michael Storer who forced the pace at the head of the breakaway and began to splinter the large group. Such duties behind fell to Soudal Quick-Step, with Evenepoel obviously confident enough to put his teammates to work on the Pico del Buitre.

On the back of Storer’s tremendous work came Einer Rubio of Movistar, who made the first attack from the breakaway with little over 4km to ride. His offensive sent the likes of Emanual Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) tumbling out the back of the front group, with the Colombian soon building a 20-second gap within 500m of riding.

Not content with the work of those around him, Kuss decided it was time for a reaction in search of Rubio and the chasing Bardet. Further down the mountain, Kuss’ teammate Primož Roglič made the first major move amongst the GC favourites and his initial acceleration left Evenepoel isolated and struggling.

Unzipped but not unsure of himself, Roglič’s high cadence propelled him forward with a determined stare, as Evenepoel and Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) stuck to the wheel of Mattia Cattaneo (Soudal Quick-Step) in an effort to shield themselves from the lessons that the road was offering up. Inside the final 2km at the head of the race, Kuss had swept up Rubio and flown away alone, as the Jumbo-Visma masterclass continued behind.

Read more:

Valter, Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard (all Jumbo-Visma) united forces and continued the siege that was unfolding on the race lead of Evenepoel. Although Enric Mas (Movistar) was determined to stick to their wheel, there was no illusions to be had - this was to be Jumbo-Visma’s day.

In the chase of the American at the head of the race, Martinez had Bardet on the ropes inside the flamme rouge, but neither of them could make a dent on Kuss’ advantage as Valter bid his leaders adieu behind.

The duo of Roglič and Vingegaard crossed the line together shortly ahead of Juan Ayuso, with the UAE Team Emirates leader producing an impressive ride to keep him within 20 seconds of both men in the GC. But the red jersey was reserved for the young Martinez, who only lost 25 seconds to Kuss and now sits eight seconds ahead of the American in the lead of the Vuelta.

Remarkably, Lenny Martinez is now the youngest ever wearer of a Grand Tour leader's jersey. Though our resident stat guru, Cillian Kelly, informs us this is a cheat stat because there were no leader's jerseys when Henri Cornet led the Tour de France in 1904, the only other Grand Tour leader younger than him.

Here's what stage 6 means for the general classification

It was a phenomenal afternoon of action and many, including Thomas and Evenepoel, were left licking their wounds, whilst Jumbo-Visma, UAE Team Emirates and Groupama-FDJ could be content with a fantastic day of work. The breakaway now dominates the top of the GC standings, with Soler of UAE Team Emirates rounding out the current podium in third behind Martinez and Kuss.

The first ‘GC favourite’ is Evenepoel in ninth, who sits 2:39 down on Kuss, and only a handful of seconds ahead of the American’s Jumbo-Visma teammates. Ineos Grenadiers were the biggest losers of the day once again, with Thomas and Thymen Arensman now 4:57 and 5:10 off the race lead, respectively.

Many will now be excited at the prospect of Kuss making a charge at the overall win, after many years spent on domestique duty for Vingegaard and Roglič. To their credit, both riders hinted at the possibility of a leadership trident before the start of the Vuelta.

Read more: 'If you want to win the Vuelta a España, you take Sepp Kuss' - Primož Roglič

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.

We’ll be showing live and on-demand coverage of all 21 stages of this year’s Vuelta a España from Saturday, August 26 to Sunday, September 17, plus daily expert analysis on The Breakaway. Head over to GCN+ now to check the start times of each broadcast so that you don’t miss out on a moment of the action! As always, territory restrictions will apply.

Race Results

1

us flag

KUSS Sepp

Jumbo-Visma

4H 27' 29"

2

fr flag

MARTINEZ Lenny

Groupama-FDJ

+ 26"

3

fr flag

BARDET Romain

Team dsm-firmenich

+ 31"

4

es flag

LANDA Mikel

Bahrain Victorious

+ 46"

5

es flag

SOLER Marc

UAE Team Emirates

"

6

nl flag

POELS Wout

Bahrain Victorious

+ 1' 03"

7

co flag

RUBIO Einer

Movistar Team

+ 1' 05"

8

es flag

RODRIGUEZ Cristian

Team Arkéa-Samsic

+ 1' 12"

9

be flag

CRAS Steff

TotalEnergies

"

10

ec flag

CEPEDA Jefferson

Caja Rural-Seguros RGA

+ 1' 26"

Provided by FirstCycling

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