Jonas Vingegaard is continuing to impress in the 2023 season. The Dane attacked early on the final climb in La Vuelta Stage 16 and beat his GC rivals on the short Bejes climb by more than a minute thanks in part to a disorganised chase behind him and his high pace.
It was a typical Vuelta stage, just 120-kilometres after the final rest day with an irregular low-altitude climb in the finale. Bejes at 4.9 kilometres at 8.5% gradient offered a chance for early attacks from the GC group as it included extended 10%+ gradient sections at the start and finish.
Jumbo-Visma before the climb had everything under control. The breakaway was caught and Attila Valter paced the first part of Bejes as hard as he could with Vingegaard, Kuss and Roglič behind him. It was clear that Roglič or Vingegaard from Jumbo-Visma would attack as the Hungarian champion was the last remaining mountain domestique with still 10 minutes remaining on the climb.
Like on Tourmalet, it was the Tour de France champion Vingegaard who attacked very early before the first steep section ended. It was similar to O Gran Camiño where Valter was the last man before the Dane launched on the steep and short climbs, with no one challenging him. Vingegaard immediately opened a huge gap and in the GC group, there was not a single team that began to chase with commitment. UAE-Emirates rider Finn Fisher Black even dropped everyone from the GC group after Mas let his wheel go, but stayed in no man’s land for the whole climb as he did not have the watts to close the gap to Vingegaard.
UAE was not united for Ayuso, with Almeida refusing to pull and then electing to attack whilst Soler was probably trying his best to not drop as both of them were fighting for a high position in the overall classification. The chase continued to be disorganised and the GC group was so slow that even Valter returned to the group, while Vingegaard was gaining a lot of time on the short climb. Some non-GC threats like Bauke Mollema, Michael Storer, Wout Poels et al even attacked the group to fight for minor places on the stage.
Clearly, Primož Roglič was not happy with the situation and attacked the GC favourites with Mas and Ayuso chasing the Slovenian down, with the red jersey Kuss suffering in the wheels.
In the end, Vingegaard won the stage, beating Fisher-Black by 43 seconds on a 13-minute climb, while Jumbo-Visma’s biggest rivals Ayuso and Mas lost 61 seconds to the Dane not gaining a single bonus second. Kuss lost four seconds to the Ayuso, Mas, Vlasov and Roglič group but remained as the GC leader. Before the mighty Angliru stage, Vingegaard is only 29 seconds behind the American, while Ayuso is more than two minutes behind the Dane.
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All the climbing conditions were perfect – low altitude climb, easy stage after a rest day and low 18 degrees temperature for Spain in early September. Jonas Vingegaard climbed Puerto de Bejes in 13:11 min pushing an estimated 7.40 ᵉW/Kg – one of the greatest unipuerto climbing performances in cycling history. Finn Fisher-Black who chased Vingegaard alone and finished 43 seconds behind pushed 6.96 ᵉW/Kg. The GC group with Roglič, Ayuso, Mas and Vlasov did only 6.65 ᵉW/Kg but could have gone much faster had there been a proper chase.
The climb was irregular and had flatter sections, which makes calculation more difficult than on other climbs, but Vingegaard has already done such performances multiple times in 2023 and on Bejes the conditions were absolutely perfect for high W/Kg.
Vingegaard is having perhaps the greatest climbing season of all time outside of Marco Pantani. Unlike in previous years, in 2023 Vingegaard has been lethal on shorter, punchy Spanish climbs, winning convincingly in O Gran Camiño on Monte Trega and Alto do Castelo as well as destroying the field in the Basque Country on Alto de Arrate - Izua. Tomorrow the rider's face a different prospect, the fearsome Angliru, with 6km at over 13% gradient. It will be interesting to see whether Vingegaard will be unleashed, if Kuss can keep the red jersey or whether Ayuso or Mas can make known their bid for the GC podium.