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Australian Kaden Groves secured the green jersey at the Vuelta a Espana on Sunday (Monday AEST) with a thrilling bunch-sprint victory in the final stage in Madrid, as American Sepp Kuss took the overall honours.
Kuss began the three-week race in the shadow of his more illustrious Jumbo-Visma teammates Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic but ended it with the red jersey still on his shoulders, having taken ownership of it on the eighth of the race’s 21 stages.
Kaden Groves celebrates on the podium in Madrid.Credit: AP
While Kuss celebrated the overall victory, Groves sealed the green jersey for the points category – the first Australian to achieve that in the Vuelta.
The battle for the stage victory was a high-octane thriller as a small lead group featuring Groves and Remco Evenepoel was caught by the peloton in the final 500 metres.
Belgium’s Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) eventually went off in search of his fourth stage win of the race but could not sustain his effort and was overtaken by Groves with 200 metres left.
Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) then poured on the power to take the win ahead of Ineos Grenadiers rider Filippo Ganna and Germany’s Nico Denz (Bora Hansgrohe).
Sepp Kuss after winning the Vuelta.Credit: AP
Kuss, 29, ended 17 seconds ahead of Denmark’s Tour de France winner Vingegaard with Slovenia’s Giro d’Italia winner Roglic one minute, eight seconds behind in third place.
It is the first time a single team has won all three grand tours in a season.
Kuss’ overall victory was effectively wrapped up on Saturday when he linked arms on the finish line with Roglic and Vingegaard, who had become his elite domestiques.
There was a celebratory mood among the Dutch team on the 101-kilometre 21st stage that concluded on a street circuit around the landmarks of Madrid.
Kuss proved an unexpected but popular winner, having worked tirelessly in support of Roglic and Vingegaard in the Giro and Tour de France earlier this year, as he has in the last few years.
“It’s incredible, I think today was the stage I suffered most in the whole race, so now I’m just glad it’s over,” Kuss, who joined the team in 2018, told Eurosport.
“It’s life-changing for sure but I’ll still be me. I’ll look back on this experience with a lot of fond memories. It’s all just still sinking in really. It will take quite some time.”
When Kuss took the red jersey from Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) on stage eight, most thought he was just keeping it warm for either Vingegaard or Roglic.
But when he managed to limit his losses on the stage 10 time trial and hang on to the red jersey, his challenge grew.
When he refused to crack in several ferocious mountain stages, one of which ended Evenepoel’s challenge, he was left battling his own teammates.
“This is a victory for the whole team,” Jumbo-Visma sporting director Marc Reef said. “We are super proud. Sepp is just himself all the time. This means as much as Jonas’ and Primoz’s victory.”
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