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Can Nairo Quintana Challenge Roglič In Paris-Nice?

Nairo Quintana has had a strong start to the season, as we saw at Tour de la Provence and Tour des Alpes-Maritimes et du Var, where the Colombian destroyed his competition on both climbs and descents. However, Quintana is yet to test himself against some of the world’s strongest general classification riders.

This is set to change on the 6th of March at Paris-Nice where, according to the provisional startlist, Quintana will face some tough competition including Primož Roglič, Simon Yates, Adam Yates, Aleksandr Vlasov and Joao Almeida.

Quintana’s Performances in 2022

As shown in the graph below, this year Quintana has outperformed his competition on the climbs. His best performance is Col d’Eze (6.78 w/kg for 14:07 minutes) in Tour des Alpes Maritimes whereas Montagne de Lure (6.06 w/kg for 32:44) is his best 20+ minute climb.

Lanterne Rouge x Cycling Graphs, Quintana’s Best Performances in 2022

The Montagne de Lure effort is more impressive than the average watts suggest, as the climb was paced asymmetrically, with a slower pace by FDJ’s Armirail until the last four kilometres, where Quintana stepped up the pace significantly to put enough time into Alaphilippe to win GC.

Quintana destroys everyone on Montagne de Lure in Tour de la Provence 2022

Quintana 2022 vs Roglič 2021

The favourite for Paris-Nice, and Quintana’s greatest threat, is Roglič. Interestingly, Quintana’s performances so far this year suggest that he is at a similar level to that of Roglič’s in 2021 in terms of peak watts per kg output. If Roglič performs in Paris-Nice at his 2021 level, Quintana will need some additional watts to drop the Slovenian and gain time against him on the mountain stages (which he will need to do, as he will lose time in the time trial).

Lanterne Rouge x Cycling Graphs, Primož Roglič 2021 vs Nairo Quintana 2022 and La Colmiane 2020

In both the 2020 and 2021 editions of Paris-Nice, Valdeblore La Colmiane (16.12 km at 6.33 %) was the biggest climb. In 2020 Quintana won the mountain top finish, beating runner up Tiesj Benoot by 46 seconds. In 2021 it was Roglič’s turn to take the victory by catching Gino Mäder just before the finish line and breaking the Swiss rider’s heart in the process.

Primož Roglič with a late attack wins on Valdeblore La Colmiane in Paris Nice 2021

Quintana and Roglič performed similarly on Valdeblore La Colmiane in 2020 and 2021 respectively. Roglič’s time is better by 18 seconds, but Quintana pushed 0.02 w/kg more because he attacked with 3.8 km to go and did not draft as much as Roglič, who waited for the final kilometre of the stage to attack.

Valdeblore La Colmiane 2020 and 2021 calculations by Naichaca

This suggests that in order for Quintana to drop Roglič in Paris-Nice, assuming that Roglič is in good condition, Quintana will need to put out more watts than what we have seen so far this year. The positive news for Quintana fans is that Quintana has likely not reached his peak career condition yet, which arguably was in February 2020 on Col d’Eze (7.5 w/kg for 9:25) and Chalet Reynard (6.67 w/kg for 28:12).

Lanterne Rouge x Cycling Graphs, 2022 performances in green

These were some of the best climbing performances in recent history, particularly the Chalet Reynard performance being almost unparalleled in the 21st century.

Quintana’s mutant performance on Col d’Eze 2020

What to Expect in Paris-Nice?

Quintana will not contest the hilly one day race Faun-Ardèche Classic on 26 February, despite initial rumours that he would line up, in order to better prepare for Paris-Nice. By contrast, Roglič will start his race season at Faun-Ardèche Classic followed by Drome Classic on 27 February. This will provide us with some insight into Roglič’s form in the lead up to Paris-Nice, with both races featuring punchy climbs that should suit the Slovenian.

Guilherand-Granges – France – wielrennen – cycling – cyclisme – radsport – David Gaudu (France / Team Groupama – FDJ) pictured during the Faun-Ardche Classic 2021- photo William Cannarella/Cor Vos © 2021

Stages 1 and 3 of Paris-Nice provide an opportunity to Roglič to take some bonus seconds if raced hard enough. However, it’s also possible that Jumbo-Visma will focus on supporting Wout van Aert’s ambitions during these stages, who is also lining up instead of racing at Tirreno-Adriatico like last year.

The primary threat to Roglič on this stage are fast finishers who can also get over some hills including Sonny Colbrelli, Bryan Coquard, Biniam Girmay, Ethan Hayter and his own teammate van Aert. Although Roglič is fast, his speed will be tested by such competition and it is a major boost for Quintana’s GC ambitions that Roglic might have to defer leadership in certain stages to van Aert.

Paris-Nice Stage 1 2022 Profile By La Flamme Rouge

To avoid a drag race to the finish, Roglič might seek to attack early on the 2-3 minute climbs and go solo in a style similar to Julian Alaphilippe. The Côté de Breuil-Bois-Robert (1.2 km at 6.9%) which is 5 km from the finish provides a perfect opportunity to attack.

Stage 2 is a flat sprint stage, while stage 3 finishes on a shallow hill of 2.1 km at 3.3% that probably is not steep enough for Roglič to attack or go against bigger sprinters while van Aert is in the group.

Paris-Nice Stage 3 2022 Profile By La Flamme Rouge

Quintana will definitely need to be on the offensive on the later stages with longer climbs because he will lose significant time against Roglič and other time-trial specialists on the hilly 13-kilometre ITT on stage 4. We expect Quintana to lose 30 to 50 seconds to Roglič in the rolling ITT, despite Quintana’s solid prologue performance in Tour de la Provence.

Paris-Nice Stage 4 2022 Profile By La Flamme Rouge

There are three stages where Quintana might launch an attack and gain some time on bigger climbs. Of course, as Quintana proved in Tour de la Provence stage 1, he can gain time on competitors in crosswind stages. There is a very high chance that we will see echelon action in Paris-Nice, which is one of the windiest races in the calendar and has ruined GC hopes in past years before the race has even reached the climbs in the South of France. Roglič is not great at positioning in echelons, but Jumbo-Visma will bring a classics squad including Wout van Aert, Nathan Van Hooydonck, Christophe Laporte, and Mike Teunissen. If Roglič stays on van Aert’s wheel then he should always be in the first echelon and even if he misses a split, he has the best squad to bring the race back together.

Quintana rides in the first group in crosswinds in Tour de la Provence 2022

On stage 5 the rider’s face the Col de la Mure (7.7 km at 8.1%). The top of it is 30 km from the finish, but it is perfect for attacks and as Quintana showed in Alpes-Maritimes, he is not afraid to attack from far out. Later in the stage there is a shallower climb, where attacks are also possible on steeper parts.

Paris-Nice Stage 5 2022 Profile By La Flamme Rouge

Stage 7 is the queen stage and finishes on the mighty Col de Turini (15.2 km, 7.2%) which was also used in the 2019 edition of Paris-Nice. Daniel Felipe Martinez won that day from the breakaway, but Nairo Quintana and Egan Bernal were the fastest from the GC favorites.

Col de Turini – France – wielrennen – cycling – cyclisme – radsport – Daniel Felipe Martinez (COL – EF Education First) pictured during the 77th Paris – Nice (2.UWT) – Stage 7 from Nice to Col de Turini (181.5KM) – photo LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2019

They climbed Col de Turini in 40:45. Jack Haig finished 22 seconds later. According to his strava data, Haig on Col de Turini produced 392 watts for 41:07. That is 5.6 w/kg if we assume his weight was 70 kilograms. In 2022 Paris-Nice, the climbing record should be broken if there is not a very strong headwind and if Quintana needs to gain time on Roglic.

Paris-Nice Stage 7 2022 Profile By La Flamme Rouge

The last chance to get time back for Quintana will be on the last day. Stage 8 will end with Col d’Eze (6.1 km, 7.6%) after a short day of constant up and down. It is the different side from the 2020 and 2022 Col d’Eze versions used in Tour des Alpes Maritimes, where Quintana performed at a very high level. This side is even steeper. In the first half of the climb there is a 1.3 km and 11.5% steep section which is perfect for an attack.

Paris-Nice Stage 8 2022 Profile By La Flamme Rouge

Team Support

Unfortunately for Quintana it will be extremely hard to isolate Roglič, who will have Wout van Aert, Steven Kruijswijk and Rohan Dennis as climbing domestiques, while Quintana’s mountain support squad will include Simon Guglielmi, Matis Louvel, and Łukasz Owsian, without the invaluable Maxime Bouet and Nicolas Edet who have helped Quintana in previous weeks. Even if Quintana drops Roglič on Col d’Eze (or another climb), the Slovenian can use his domestiques to pace back Quintana. If Roglič performs at his 2021 level, then the only way he can lose against Quintana is if he repeats something similar to Paris-Nice stage 8, which is possible given how tricky the final stage is once again.

Roglič loses Paris-Nice 2021 in stage 8

His 2022 supporting cast will be considerably stronger than last year, so even if Roglič has some mishaps throughout Paris-Nice, there is no one better than Wout van Aert to rescue him. Of course, Roglic is not the only man to beat, and with Simon Yates, Aleksandr Vlasov and Adam Yates already looking in top shape this year, Quintana even reaching the podium of this race will be perhaps his best ever one week performance since he joined Arkea-Samsic.

UAE Wins Annual Ranking and Uno-X Secures Wildcards to 2024 Classics | UCI Final Ranking Analysis

The Tour of Guangxi marked the end of the 2023 season, with UAE Team Emirates winning the overall UCI ranking for the first time in its history. Although Jumbo-Visma’s season has been historic, winning all three Grand Tours and taking the full podium in La Vuelta, UAE has taken advantage of the depth of its squad and scored more points in smaller races. In addition, Lotto Dstny and Israel – Premier Tech have achieved invitations to the entire 2024 WorldTour calendar, while Uno-X will have the right to participate in all WorldTour classics, including the Monuments.

2023 Rankings

UAE has won the ranking with a lead of more than 1,000 points, securing victory in the Italian classics, even though Jumbo won the Tour of Guangxi. As a new scoring system has been introduced this season, it is difficult to make comparisons with last season. However, in the following graph you can see the points that each team would have obtained in the 2023 season under the old scoring system. Jumbo-Visma would have won the ranking with 20,403 points, while last year they won with 15,003 points and UAE was second with 13,323. Regardless of the scoring system changes, it is obvious that both teams have widened their gap to the rest of during this season.

Looking at the graph, the team most disadvantaged by the new scoring system was Uno-X, which would have finished in 19th position with the old system, less than 200 points behind DSM, which is the 18th team. In reality, Uno-X are more than 2,500 points behind DSM, which they will have to cut over the next two seasons if they want to move up to the WorldTour by the end of 2025.

Without the merger between Jumbo-Visma and Soudal-Quickstep, Uno-X, Astana and Arkéa are once again far from the top18, although they have time to recover. The Kazakh team has been the worst WorldTeam for the second year in a row, but at least they are already playing the UCI points game. This last month they have competed in the Tour de Langkawi, the Tour de Kyushu and the Tour of Türkiye, as well as obtaining 625 UCI points in the Asian Games, with almost no WorldTour rivals. In addition, Arkéa has also improved with the signing of Arnaud Démare, who has achieved 658 UCI points and two victories in just two months of racing with the team.

Jayco Alula, one of the teams that struggled the most last year to stay in the WorldTour, is still keeping a close eye on UCI points. They have extended their trip to China by an extra week to compete in the Hong Kong Challenge (1.1), which will count for the 2024 season, but is equally important for the triennial ranking. On the other hand, Israel – Premier Tech will have enjoyed their trainee Riley Sheehan’s surprise victory of the Paris – Tours, but cannot add the 316 points Sheehan has earned since August, as trainees do not score points for the team.

Being the end of the season, it is a good time to make an analysis of the correlation between racedays of a cyclist and the UCI points achieved this season. In the graph below, you can see that most of the riders competed between 51 and 70 race days. The number of riders starts to drop between 71 and 80 days and finally only 19 riders were able to compete in more than 80 days.

On average, the cyclists who have performed best are those who have raced between 61 and 70 days, although the few who have raced more than 80 days have also averaged more than 600 UCI points. This is explained by the fact that they are cyclists of high quality and experience, such as Landa, Caruso or Rui Costa, who focus on stage races.

In the interactive chart below, you can see the points of all the riders of the 22 teams aiming for WorldTour licenses.

2024 Wildcards

Without any mergers or dissolving teams, next season there will still be two wildcards available to the entire WorldTour, for Lotto Dstny and Israel – Premier Tech, and one wildcard to all WorldTour classics, for Uno-X. The Norwegian team has resisted pressure from TotalEnergies, the latter of which will be left without automatic wildcards after having enjoyed them this season.

If Lotto and Israel do not withdraw from any Grand Tours, there will only be two discretionary wildcards in the hands of the organisers of the Giro, Tour and Vuelta. In the case of the Tour de France, TotalEnergies and Uno-X are the clear favourites, but in the Giro and Vuelta there will be many more candidates than places available. By UCI regulations, the Giro must invite at least one Italian team to ensure a national entry, which further complicates the entry of Tudor and Q36.5, two growing projects with links to Italy but registration in Switzerland. In the following image, you can see a summary of the situation.

On another note, all ProTeams, except Novo Nordisk, have finished in the top 50 of the UCI ranking and will be eligible for the Grand Tours in 2024. Also TDT-Unibet, which will be promoted to ProTeam, will be able to apply for wildcards to the Grand Tours despite finishing 51st this season. For the new ProTeams, the UCI points of their riders of the next season are considered and the TDT-Unibet signings will be enough to fulfil this requirement. It is worth remembering that in 2024, ProTeams will have to finish in the top40 of the UCI ranking and from 2025 in the top30 to be eligible for Grand Tours.

Olympic Rankings

The Olympic rankings have also been finalised with the end of the season, and there has been excitement right up to the last races. Only 90 men and 90 women will be able to take part in the Paris 2024 road races and only the top5 countries in each gender will be able to take the maximum of 4 riders, which will be a tactical advantage in such an open race.

In the men’s ranking, Spain has not been able to complete the comeback against France due to the crashes of Mas and Landa in Lombardia, and will only be able to take 3 riders to Paris. In addition, Ecuador will only have one quota spot, so Richard Carapaz will defend the Olympic title without teammates. In the following image you can see the available places for your nation.

In the women’s ranking, Daria Pikulik’s final rush almost put Poland in the top 5, only 34 points behind Great Britain. In addition, in the Chinese WWT races, Belarus and Ireland have secured one quota at the last minute, with surprising performances by Hanna Tserakh and Mia Griffin. There is still confusion because in the final official UCI ranking they have forgotten to add some races, such as the Giro Donne or the Cuban National Championships. With those points, Cuba would get two quotas for Paris 2024 ahead of China. As the UCI revises its official ranking, in the following image you can see the ranking graph with those races added.

Pogačar Sets a New Record on Passo di Ganda | Il Lombardia 2023

Tadej Pogačar keeps adding monument wins to his palmares, winning his third Il Lombardia in a row. After not being able to distance everyone on Passo di Ganda, Pogačar attacked on the descent and soloed to his fifth monument victory.

Il Lombardia 2023 profile

UAE’s Slovenian superstar was the main favourite to win Lombardia after being victorious in 2021 and 2022, beating Fausto Masnada and Enric Mas in a sprint. Pogačar prepared for Lombardia with four Italian classics, running 2nd in Giro dell’Emilia, 3rd in Coppa Sabatini, 4th in Giro della Toscana and 5th in Tre Valli Varesine. Primož Roglič and Remco Evenepoel, who both started in La Vuelta, were the other two big contenders. Unfortunately for the Belgian champion he crashed early in the race with more than 200 km to go. Evenepoel continued but the hard crash definitely affected his race performance.

Bergamo – Italiy – cycling – cyclisme – radsport – wielrennen – Remco Evenepoel (BEL – Soudal – Quick Step) pictured during 117th Il Lombardia (1.UWT) a one day race Como > Bergamo (238km – Photo: Luca Bettini/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

238 kilometres with 4,646 metres of climbing makes Lombardia one of the hardest one-day races of the year. The main climb this year was Passo di Ganda, where in 2021 Pogačar attacked and later was caught on the descent by Fausto Masnada. Passo di Ganda is a relatively easy climb as the average gradient of the first six kilometres are little bit above 6%, where drafting is extremely important, while the last two kilometres, where the action usually happens, average almost 9%.

Before Passo di Ganda there was a big crash in the peloton with Richard Carapaz, Esteban Chaves, Mikel Landa, Matteo Jorgenson and other strong riders going down. Before the climb Nick Schultz sitting in the peloton spent 4,483 kilojoules for 4:53h. The intensity was not that high for a monument one day race, averaging 13.50 kj/kg/h, but the legs were surely still fatigued after climbing for almost 5 hours.

Pogačar’s teammate Adam Yates attacked early on Ganda, making the pace harder and forcing Jumbo-Visma to spend their energy with Atilla Valter in pursuit. Evenepoel did not look good and was distanced quickly like in the 2021 edition.

Pogačar and Roglič both were looking at each other, while Michael Woods, Chris Harper, Adam Yates, Richard Carapaz, Aleksandr Vlasov, Simon Yates and Andrea Bagioli made the split and got a gap on the big contenders. Pogačar later bridged to the first group and dropped Roglič who was struggling. Despite Pogačar attacking, and being joined by a very strong Aleksandr Vlasov, Roglič was able to claw back the lead duo with Simon Yates and Carlos Rodriguez close to this wheel. At the crest of Passo di Ganda the best climbers were together before Pogačar attacked on the descent.

Bergamo – Italiy – cycling – cyclisme – radsport – wielrennen – Tadej Pogacar (SLO / UAE-Team Emirates) pictured during 117th Il Lombardia (1.UWT) a one day race Como > Bergamo (238km – Photo: Luca Bettini/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

Pogačar, Vlasov, Roglič, S. Yates and Bagioli climbed Passo di Ganda in 23 minutes and 8 seconds, setting a new climbing record. In 2021 Pogačar did Passo di Ganda in 23:14 min, while the second group did it in 23:44 min. Compared to other 2023 races, the ᵉW/Kg were not high. 6.33 – 6.34 ᵉW/Kg for the riders in the first group is not anything special for 2023 standards, but it comes at the end of nearly 9 months of full gas racing for many of these riders.

Pogačar demonstrated his improved descending skills off Passo di Ganda compared to 2021, opening a significant gap over his chasers. On the flat before Colle Aperto the UAE superstar benefited from group 2 syndrome, with his rivals unable to work well together. Despite cramps in the legs he won his third Il Lombardia in a row in convincing fashion. Bagioli won the bunch sprint behind getting his biggest result in World Tour races, while Roglič in his final race in Jumbo-Visma finished 3rd, beating his future teammate Vlasov.

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UAE Hold off Jumbo while Uno-X and Total fight for Wildcards | UCI September Ranking Analysis

With less than a month of the season to go, several important battles in the UCI rankings are still open. UAE Team Emirates leads Jumbo-Visma by only 387 points in the race to win the annual ranking, after Jumbo’s full podiums in La Vuelta and European Championships. In addition, Uno-X leads Total Energies by 281 points in the race for automatic invitations to next year’s WorldTour classics, but they could be the wildcards for the entire WorldTour if the merger between Jumbo and QuickStep materialises. Also at stake are the quota places for the Paris Olympics, with very narrow margins between some of the top nations.

2023 Rankings

It seems surprising that the team that has won Giro, Tour and Vuelta and recently occupied the podium of the European Championships is not leading the UCI ranking. However, UAE’s season has also been impressive and they are making the most of the smaller races, such as the Tour of Luxembourg this past week, where they have put four men in the top seven of the GC. Without the points obtained by UAE in Luxembourg, Jumbo-Visma would have overtaken UAE in the UCI ranking.

If we analyse the points per race category, we can see that Jumbo-Visma has scored more in the WorldTour and World Championships, but UAE has made the difference in the ProSeries and .1 races, where they have scored 2,600 UCI points more than Jumbo Visma. In any case, the difference with the other teams is enormous.

According to ProCyclingStats, UAE will take part in 14 races until the end of the season, while Jumbo will take part in 10. In addition, Vingegaard and Kuss will not race for the remainder of the season, so Roglic and Van Aert will take the main responsibility for scoring the necessary UCI points. However, it seems that Wout van Aert will race the Gravel World Championships instead of Lombardia or Paris-Tours, which will benefit UAE, as gravel does not award UCI points. As a reminder, the 2023 season will officially end right after the Tour of Guangxi on 17 October.

On another note, the news of the possible merger between Jumbo-Visma and Soudal-QuickStep could potentially affect the relegation battle. It is unclear whether a ProTeam (e.g. Israel, Tudor or Q36.5) could buy the surplus WorldTour licence or, on the contrary, we would have a 17-team WorldTour in 2024. In a hypothetical purchase of a WorldTour licence, the UCI would also have to decide whether the buyer also acquires the seller’s UCI points or not. In recent years there have been three licence purchases by 2nd division teams: CCC from BMC in 2019, Israel from Katusha in 2020 and, most recently, Intermarché from CCC in 2021.

If one of the ProTeams does not purchase the available licence, the UCI can also allocate the one remaining licence if there are less than 18 registered WorldTeams.

If less than 18 teams are registered as UCI WorldTeams (following procedures for the award of licenses or annual registration), the Professional Cycling Council decides if and when the available licences can be allocated. Any such allocation shall, in principle, not take place, before the end of the following season.

Article 2.15.009

In any case, at the end of 2025 the UCI will again distribute 18 WorldTour licences to the 18 teams with the most UCI points in the cumulative ranking from 2023-2025. A merger would be good news for the teams now outside the top 18, such as Astana, Arkéa, Uno-X and TotalEnergies, as it would increase their chances of getting a WorldTour licence for the next licence cycle (2026-2028). Currently, those four teams are between 2,000 and 3,000 points below the 18th position, marked by AG2R Citroën.

Teams in need of points will have good opportunities in October. In addition to the usual calendar, there will be two Continental Games, which will distribute points as if they were continental championships. From 3-5 October are the Asian Games, where especially Astana can score hundreds of “easy” UCI points. Also, on 22 and 29 October, the Juegos Panamericanos will be held, which will already count for the 2024 season, but are equally important points in the cumulative ranking of the three-year period.

In the interactive chart below, you can see the points of all the riders of the 22 teams aiming for WorldTour licenses. It is especially useful to look at the 20 riders scoring points in UAE and Jumbo, who are fighting to win the ranking, and in Uno-X and Total, who are fighting for the wildcards.

2024 Wildcards

The fight for wildcards would also be affected if a merger of Jumbo and QuickStep occurs and the remaining WorldTour licence is not sold or re-allocated by the UCI. The UCI regulations contemplate the possibility of a 17-team WorldTour to distribute the wildcards. In that case, the top 3 ProTeams would have automatic invitations to the entire WorldTour, while the fourth ProTeam would have invitations only to the WorldTour classics.

Lotto and Israel have already secured their ticket to the whole WorldTour calendar in 2024, so Uno-X would be the team to benefit the most, as they are currently the third ProTeam. However, their lead is only 281 points over TotalEnergies. With so few races to go, this is not a trivial advantage, but anything can still happen. If they obtain a newly available third wildcard to the entire 2024 WorldTour, Uno-X could make their debut in the Giro and Vuelta, after making their debut in the Tour de France this season.

Olympic Rankings

The men’s and women’s Olympic rankings are also very close at the end of the season. The top 5 nations will be able to field a maximum of four riders in the Olympic Road Race in Paris, but those positions have yet to be decided. The rankings will be finalised after the Tour of Guangxi for both men and women.

In the men’s ranking, Spain has recovered much of its disadvantage with France and Great Britain in the fight for the top 5. In the Italian classics and the Tour of Guangxi, they can take advantage of Mas, Landa, Bilbao, Rodríguez or Ayuso to overtake France or Great Britain. France will count on the great form of Pavel Sivakov, while Great Britain will depend mainly on the Yates brothers. The fight will probably be open until the Tour of Guangxi.

In the women’s rankings, Switzerland, Great Britain, France, Australia and Poland are still in contention for the top5. Although Switzerland and Great Britain have a significant lead, there are still the two Chinese races of the Women’s WorldTour, where the ranking could change. In the image below, you can see the position of your nation.

Evenepoel Rides Away on Cruz de Linares | La Vuelta 2023 Stage 18

Remco Evenepoel dominated the breakaway of La Vuelta Stage 18, achieving his 50th pro victory at age 23, while Jumbo-Visma worked for their leader Sepp Kuss, who survived the high pace on the final climb made by Bahrain-Victorious, keeping his leader’s jersey.

La Vuelta 2023 Stage 18 profile

After a Jumbo-Visma civil war on Angliru, it was a relatively calm day on Stage 18, with the breakaway going early and obtaining a huge gap over the peloton as Jumbo-Visma was happy to give away the bonus seconds and stage win. With two Cruz de Linares (8.2 km, 8.6%) ascents at the end of the course, it was going to be a day for climbers.

Remco Evenepoel was the big favourite from the breakaway with Max Poole, Damiano Caruso, Egan Bernal, Andreas Kron, Julien Bernard and others trying to challenge the Belgian champion. Despite being alone in the group with no teammates it was a perfect day for Evenepoel as the first half of the Linares ascent was over 10% gradient, which was suited for a high w/kg climber. Evenepoel had strong legs, did a lot of pacing in the middle of the stage and rode away from everyone on the first of the two Linares ascents, dropping Poole as the last rider.

La Cruz de Linares – Spain – cycling – Remco Evenepoel (BEL – Soudal – Quick Step) – Max Poole (GBR / Team DSM-Firmenich) pictured during Vuelta Espana 2023 – 78th edition – stage 18 – Pola de Allande > La Cruz de Linares (178.9km) – Photo: Luis Angel Gomez/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

Evenepoel did 6.53 ᵉW/Kg for 24:40 min on the first ascent and 6.17 ᵉW/Kg for 25:55 on the second time up Linares when he already had the stage win secured. No one came close to challenging him, as Evenepoel beat second-place finisher Damiano Caruso by 4 minutes and 44 seconds, for his 50th pro victory and 3rd stage victory in the 2023 Vuelta. There is still a single mountain day left on Stage 20 but it does not have the hard climbs of Stage 18.

In the peloton, it was a calm day compared to Angliru. Bahrain-Victorious again were pacing as they still had a strong climbing team even with Caruso in the breakaway. The peloton did the first Linares ascent in 25:05 min with 6.22 ᵉW/Kg. A decent pace but not too hard, slower than a practically solo Remco Evenepoel.

Wout Poels pulling for Mikel Landa

It was a long stage with a higher kilojoule count than the Angliru and Tourmalet explosive stages. Steff Cras spent before the final climb 4,024 kilojoules for 4:32h, which is 13.22 kj/kg/h. Not a high intensity but it was more of a difficult endurance test than most of La Vuelta's climbing stages.

After Poels and Tiberi had done their job, Landa tried to attack and move to the fourth place in the GC ahead of Juan Ayuso but it was not enough. Vingegaard acted as a domestique and brought back Landa and paced the rest of the climb with Kuss and Roglič in his wheel. Landa and Ayuso tried later to attack again as the pace was not super high but were brought back.

Vingegaard working for Kuss

In the end, it was not a straightforward day for many of the other GC contenders, with Cian Ujitdebroeks, Aleksandr Vlasov and Joao Almeida losing almost a minute to the main GC group. Kuss, Mas, Ayuso and Roglič finished together, with Landa and Vingegaard losing three and nine seconds respectively in the final metres.

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Despite Jumbo-Visma being calm, it was a very hard final ascent of La Cruz de Linares. Jonas Vingegaard did the final climb in 24:09 min, pushing 6.60 ᵉW/Kg. Kuss, Roglič, Mas and Ayuso did 6.54 ᵉW/Kg. Kuss proved that he is not fading at all, surviving such a hard climb, and going one step closer to his first Grand Tour victory.

Jumbo-Visma Torches Altu de L’Angliru | La Vuelta 2023 Stage 17

Jumbo-Visma again dominated on a mountain stage with an entertaining performance from Primož Roglič who attacked his teammate and race leader Sepp Kuss, with Jonas Vingegaard following the Slovenian, despite all three at that point leading the race without any other rival teams.

Vuelta a Espana 2023 Stage 17 profile

Altu de L’Angliru (12.20 km, 10.49%) is one of the steepest climbs in pro cycling with gradients going way over 10% in the second half of the climb. Jumbo-Visma began the day leading the Vuelta overall classification with three riders, Sepp Kuss, Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič. All of them are the strongest climbers in the race which is a unique situation in the modern era of Grand Tours.

As expected it was going to be a GC day as the breakaway did not get enough gap from Jumbo’s rouleurs to stand a chance against the mighty Bahrain-Victorious train with Tiberi, Caruso, Buitrago, Poels and Landa who was fighting for the 4th spot in the GC against Ayuso and Soler. Remco Evenepoel was the last survivor of the breakaway but a minute gap before Angliru was not enough. The high pace in the GC group was one of the reasons why the gap was small as Marc Soler launched early with 52 km to go, ignoring his 6th place in the overall classification and later losing many minutes on the steep climb.

Altu de LÕAngliru – Spain – cycling – Marc Soler (ESP – UAE Team Emirates) pictured during Vuelta Espana 2023 – 78th edition – stage 17 – Ribadesella/Ribeseya > Altu de LÕAngliru (124.4km) – Photo: Luis Angel Gomez/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

It was not a high fatigue day as Steff Cras spent 2,545 kilojoules for 2:36h before the climb, at a reasonable intensity of 14.67 kj/kg/h. A low kilojoule day from Jumbo-Visma riders tends to benefit Roglič compared to Kuss and Vingegaard, who both excel on extremely difficult days.

Bahrain-Victorious had an insanely strong team, setting a high and steady pace on Angliru. Wout Poels in the 2017 La Vuelta finished together with his then teammate Chris Froome on the hard climb, setting the fastest time that day, and finished second behind Juan Jose Cobo in 2011. Poels again was lethal on the steep ramps with Landa and the Jumbo-Visma big three were the only survivors.

Bahrain Victorious mountain train

After Poels finished his job and Landa started to set a lower pace, Kuss, Roglič and Vingegaard were the only ones in the front. Despite Sepp Kuss having helped Roglič in many Grand Tours and being the race leader, the Slovenian gifted the American on his 29th birthday more pain and accelerated in the final kilometres. Vingegaard was not helping Roglič and was sitting on his wheel, while Kuss was fighting for the red jersey against his teammates.

Altu de LÕAngliru – Spain – cycling – Primoz Roglic (SLO – Jumbo – Visma) – Jonas Vingegaard (DEN – Jumbo – Visma) – Sepp Kuss (USA – Jumbo – Visma) pictured during Vuelta Espana 2023 – 78th edition – stage 17 – Ribadesella/Ribeseya > Altu de LÕAngliru (124.4km) – Photo: Luis Angel Gomez/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

Roglič won his 12th Vuelta stage and finished with Vingegaard who probably could have gone faster, while Kuss with a little help from Landa lost 19 seconds on the stage not counting bonus seconds and kept his leader’s jersey but Vingegaard (+0:08) and Roglič (+1:08) cut the gap. Ayuso lost +1:42 on Angliru to Roglič and is almost three minutes behind the Slovenian in the GC as the best non-Jumbo-Visma rider.

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The legendary Robert Heras record of 41 minutes was not broken but it was close. Roglič and Vingegaard climbed Angliru in 41:24 min, pushing 6.43 ᵉW/Kg. Many riders broke their 40+ minute power records in this race as the climb was steep, well paced by Bahrain-Victorious early, relatively low kilojoules before the base and at low altitude. Vingegaard if he went full gas and attacked Roglič probably could have broken Heras’ record. The level of climbing is extremely high as Roglič, Vingegaard, Landa, Kuss and Poels beat Chris Horner’s incredible time (42:15 min) set in the 2013 La Vuelta which until this day was the second fastest ascent on Angliru. Roglič and Vingegaard were 29 seconds faster than Heras on the steep section of the climb, which means that most of the time was lost against the legendary Spaniard during the first six kilometres which were not that steep and had the pace set by Bahrain. Roglič and Vingegaard on the steep part did 6.75 ᵉW/Kg for 26:28 min.

Kuss is the shape of his life and has performed exceptionally on mountain stages in this Vuelta, protecting his leader's jersey from his teammates Roglič and Vingegaard. There are two more mountain days left on stages 18 and 20. Tomorrow it will be a hard mountain top finish on La Cruz de Linares (8.3 km, 8.5%), where Roglič likely might try again to attack with Vingegaard following his wheel and Kuss trying his best not to lose the lead.

Vingegaard Delivers another Historical Performance | Vuelta a Espana 2023 Stage 16

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.

La Vuelta Stage 16 2023 profile

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.

Valter pulling the GC group

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.

Vingegaard attacks

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.

Roglič attacks

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.

Jumbo-Visma Complete Domination on Tourmalet | La Vuelta 2023 Stage 13

Jumbo-Visma continues to impress in the 2023 season, today making a huge leap towards a La Vuelta GC win with their three team leaders Jonas Vingegaard, Sepp Kuss and Primož Roglič finishing 1-2-3 on the Col du Tourmalet, while their main threat Remco Evenepoel lost 27 minutes on the stage and ended his GC hopes.

La Vuelta 2023 Stage 13 profile by La Flamme Rouge

It was by far the hardest Vuelta stage of this edition, with Col d’Aubisque, Col de Spandelles and Col du Tourmalet (West Side) in a single stage. The mountains made famous by Le Tour de France were a big test for all of the riders. Early in the stage there were signs that Joao Almeida was not feeling well, alongside Remco Evenepoel, both dropping on the first big mountain of the day, the Col d’Aubisque. The Belgian had an off-day at the worst moment and lost his GC hopes completely.

Col du Tourmalet – France – cycling – Remco Evenepoel (BEL – Soudal – Quick Step) pictured during Vuelta Espana 2023 – 78th edition – stage 13 – Formigal Huesca la Magia : Col du Tourmalet (134.7km) – Photo: Luis Angel Gomez/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

Aubisque was paced very hard as the GC group did it in 44:07 minutes with 5.84 ᵉW/Kg. Break formation also contributed to an extremely high pace already on this first high mountain of the day. Australian Michael Storer was the fastest on the climb with a time of 43:30 min and 6.02 ᵉW/Kg. Record holder Michael Rasmussen did Aubisque in the 2007 Tour in 43:18 min, only a little bit faster than KOM point chasers in La Vuelta 2023.

After Aubisque, Jonas Vingegaard, Sepp Kuss, Mikel Landa and Damiano Caruso went on a descent raid and opened a gap over the peloton where UAE-Emirates were forced to chase hard. They gained a 40 second advantage before Spandelles but were caught with Finn Fisher-Black working well for his team leader Juan Ayuso. The Roglič group did Spandelles in 31:45 min with 5.79 ᵉW/Kg. This is 1:48 min slower than Vingegaard and Pogačar in the 2022 Tour before the Hautacam but there was still left the final big climb of the day, Col du Tourmalet.

The GC group riders already had spent a lot of energy before the Pyrenean giant, with Steff Cras spending 3,105 kilojoules for 3:02h, which is 15.43 kj/kg/h. A short and intensive stage with a huge power output on the big climbs. There was a small headwind on Tourmalet but not enough to stop these riders breaking climbing records.

After Remco Evenepoel’s downfall it was Jumbo-Visma’s big chance to put more time on their main rivals Enric Mas and Juan Ayuso. With eight km to go, Vingegaard launched his first attack which was closed but the Dane attacked again soon after, and this time Mas could not close the gap immediately. Ayuso was marked by Roglič and Kuss who were sitting in the small GC group with Cian Uijtdebroeks trying his best to keep up with the leaders. Mikel Landa later joined the group with Mas and Ayuso chasing the Tour de France winner who had opened a decent gap. Marc Soler, Aleksandr Vlasov and Steff Cras were in Group 3 trying to consolidate their GC position as best they could.

Col du Tourmalet – France – cycling – Jonas Vingegaard (DEN – Jumbo – Visma) escape – breakaway pictured during Vuelta Espana 2023 – 78th edition – stage 13 – Formigal Huesca la Magia : Col du Tourmalet (134.7km) – Photo: Luis Angel Gomez/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

Ayuso and Mas were not too happy with chasing Vingegaard while his teammates enjoyed the slipstream. With 5.5 km to go Mas attacked the group but the GC leader Kuss was on his wheel. The American Eagle was flying as he later dropped Mas with an acceleration but the Spaniard closed the gap and was annoyed by Jumbo-Visma tactics and stopped riding, with Ayuso bringing them both back. Vingegaard was still in the lead and the gap was getting closer to a minute. The tactics by Mas and Ayuso attacking each other benefitted the Dane as they did not work together to set a steady tempo.

Kuss marking Mas

The Jumbo-Visma show was only just getting started, as Kuss launched on the steep section of Tourmalet at the end. At first he needed to brake, as a spectator was blocking the road, but after he got clear air Kuss flew past everyone.

Col du Tourmalet – France – cycling – Sepp Kuss (USA – Jumbo – Visma) pictured during Vuelta Espana 2023 – 78th edition – stage 13 – Formigal Huesca la Magia : Col du Tourmalet (134.7km) – Photo: Rafa Gomez/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

Vingegaard won the stage by 30 seconds while in the end Kuss and the other GC riders brought back some seconds in the final kilometre. Roglič finished third on the stage, dropping Ayuso, Uijtdebroeks and Mas, making this a historic Jumbo-Visma 1-2-3 on a big mountain stage in La Vuelta. With Almeida losing almost seven minutes on the stage and Evenepoel 27 minutes, Ayuso and Mas are the biggest threats to the Dutch team. Kuss’ lead in the GC is 1:37 min over Roglič and 1:44 min over Vingegaard. There are left some hard mountain stages but this Grand Tour looks like it will end with Jumbo-Visma sweeping the podium.

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Jonas Vingegaard broke the Col du Tourmalet via D917 record which was previously owned by Thibaut Pinot. The Frenchman in 2019 did the climb in 51:10 min with 5.87 ᵉW/Kg. Pinot drafted almost the whole climb and had a tailwind while Vingegaard attacked early into a slight headwind. The Dane produced 6.09 ᵉW/Kg for 50:47, making this one of the greatest performances of his career after a very intensive day on Aubisque and Spandelles.

Jonas Vingegaard is having an all-time great season with dominating performances in Basque Country, Criterium du Dauphiné and of course the Tour de France. If he wins La Vuelta it might be one of the very best GC seasons of all time but Sepp Kuss will probably need to crack for Vingegaard to win La Vuelta. The Tourmalet is a high altitude climb, finishing over 2,100m, and adjusting his performance for altitude it is in his Top 3, behind his Cote de Domancy time-trial and Col du Tourmalet (East side) final 3 km in the 2023 Tour. Marie Blanque, Puy de Dome, Croix de Fer and Izua-Arrate are his other best career performance, all of which were produced in 2023.

UAE Pull Clear as Arkéa and Astana Fall Deep into relegation zone | UCI August Ranking Analysis

With only a month and a half to go until the end of the season, we can see clear trends in the rankings. UAE Emirates is destined to win the annual ranking thanks to its great competitiveness in almost every race on the calendar. In addition, there is a clear divide between the top 18 teams and the rest, which puts Arkéa and Astana in a delicate situation in just the first year of the triennium.

2023 Ranking

As you can see, UAE has extended its lead over Jumbo-Visma to more than 2,000 points, in part due to Tim Wellens’ overall victory in the Renewi Tour. Matxin, UAE’s general manager, wants to win the UCI ranking for the first time in the team’s history and has brilliantly organised the goals of almost all UAE riders. For example, in this Vuelta a España we can see how the team is fighting the general classification with Ayuso, Almeida and Soler, but they have also lined up Molano for the sprints, who has earned more than 200 UCI points in the first week.

Even though Jumbo can cut some of that deficit in the final two weeks of La Vuelta, UAE will have a full calendar of Italian classics at the end of the season, where they will surely finish off their victory in the UCI rankings. Anyway, there is an even bigger gap between Jumbo, UAE and the rest of the teams. In the following graph, we can see how the sum of UCI points of UAE, Jumbo and Ineos has evolved. Jumbo finished the classics season in the lead, but UAE has been gaining ground ever since. Ineos was only at their level in the first two months of the season and during the Giro.

Regarding the other end of the table, DSM (18th team in the ranking) has had a great month of August, with the victory in the Vuelta TTT, Lorenzo Milesi’s U23 ITT World Championship and Matthew Dinham’s 7th place in the World Championships, among other outstanding results. This has caused Arkéa and Astana’s gap to the top18 to grow considerably. For the remainder of the 2023 season and the next two seasons, Arkéa will have to recover a disadvantage of almost 2,300 UCI points, while Astana will have to recover almost 3,000 UCI points.

To the benefit of Astana and Arkéa, they not only have the option of overtaking DSM, but Israel, Ag2r, Jayco, Intermarché, Movistar and Cofidis are also within a relatively manageable distance. Moreover, with so many teams involved, it’s likely that some of them will drop down a level in the coming seasons through either bad luck or bad management. Movistar in particular will miss Carlos Rodriguez, after Ineos paid the buyout fee to keep him. Perhaps we will see one of these teams rescue Nairo Quintana, as the Colombian was still very competitive in one-week stage races and was instrumental in Arkéa’s promotion to WorldTour in the previous triennium.

Both Arkéa and Astana are moving in the transfer market to improve their situation. Especially Arkéa, who added Arnaud Démare already in August and good points chasers like Vincenzo Albanese, Clément Venturini and Raúl García Pierna will arrive in 2024. However, Warren Barguil and Hugo Hofstetter will leave for two rival teams (DSM and Israel respectively). Astana is also signing logically, bringing in Lorenzo Fortunato, Max Kanter, Henok Mulubrhan, Ide Schelling and Anthon Charmig, all of whom can perform well on the ProSeries and continental calendar.

On the positive side, Lotto Dstny also stood out in August and is on track for a return to the WorldTour in 2026, already being more than 5,300 points clear of the relegation zone. Kron won in Barcelona in La Vuelta, while De Lie, Campenaerts and De Buyst have won 1.1 classics in Belgium and France. In addition, Florian Vermeersch took a strong second place in the GC of the Renewi Tour. The Belgian team has renewed De Lie until 2026, while it is still unknown if Ewan will continue next season, despite having a contract until 2024. If Ewan finally decides to stay for his final year, the team will need to try and repair the relationship so they can get the most out of the Australian sprinter before he leaves Lotto.

In the interactive chart below, you can see the points of all the riders of the 22 teams aiming for WorldTour licenses.

2024 Wildcards

With only a month and a half to go before the end of the season, it is already clear that Lotto and Israel will have wildcards to the entire 2024 WorldTour, including the Grand Tours. Israel will likely race all three Grand Tours, while Lotto will perhaps again forgo the Giro d’Italia to focus on a more suitable alternative calendar. Depending on whether or not Lotto gives up the Giro, there will be two or three wildcards available for the three Italian ProTeams (Bardiani, Eolo and Corratec) plus Tudor and Q36.5, which have signed valuable cyclists in the transfer market and have several Italian riders.

The remaining wildcard for the one-day races, including Monuments, is still up for grabs between Uno-X and TotalEnergies, although Uno-X maintains a lead of over 600 points. This would mean the debut of Uno-X in races such as Milano-Sanremo or Il Lombardia. As you can see in the graph below, Uno-X had a more discreet start to the season, but since June has made a leap in performance, which places them as the third ProTeam now. TotalEnergies is making a comeback, with Geoffrey Soupe’s victory in La Vuelta and the 2nd place of Mathieu Burgaudeau in Plouay, but Uno-X will also score UCI points in Belgian semi-classics in the coming weeks.

Olympic Rankings

The Olympic ranking, which determines the number of cyclists eligible for Paris 2024 per country, takes into account the points in the 2023 season of the top eight men and top five women per nation. This is especially important because there will only be 90 participants in both races and only the top five countries will be allowed to bring the maximum of four riders.

In the men’s ranking, Belgium, Denmark and Slovenia are virtually assured of participation with four riders, while Great Britain should secure it if the Yates brothers perform well in the Canadian classics. The most exciting fight is between France and Spain, the latter of whom is making a comeback in the Vuelta a España, with Ayuso, Mas, Soler and Landa in the top10 of the general classification. In addition, the United States has settled in tenth place in the rankings and will be able to take three riders, while Colombia will only be able to participate with two riders.

As for the women’s ranking, the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium will participate with four cyclists in Paris 2024. However, there is still a very close fight between Switzerland, Australia, Great Britain and France to enter the top5. Also, Denmark and the United States are separated by only 50 points for the tenth position.

Evenepoel Pushes Over 7 ᵉW/Kg on Rampas Inhumanas | La Vuelta 2023 Stage 8

It was another GC day in La Vuelta, as Jumbo-Visma controlled the breakaway and did not let it fight for a stage win. After Remco Evenepoel paced hard for most of the steep Xorret de Cati, Primož Roglič was able to outsprint him at the end of the hard stage.

Vuelta a Espana 2023 Stage 8 profile

Stage 8 started in the Alicante region, with the first part of the stage familiar to most of the riders as almost every team in the previous winter did at least one or two training camps in the area. Despite many good climbers forming a strong and large breakaway after Vall d’Ebo, it was going to be a GC day as Jumbo-Visma with the help of Groupama-FDJ worked hard before and did not let the gap grow too big.

Xorret de Cati has been used multiple times in La Vuelta and it is one of the steepest climbs in pro racing with a 500 metre section of 17.9%. Drafting still matters on 13%+ gradients but it is evidently not as significant as on 6-8% gradients. After the climb there was a three kilometre fast descent and sprint finish.

When the peloton arrived at the bottom of the climb the breakaway was almost caught. Emmanuel Buchmann before the climb did 3,418 kilojoules for 4:01 h, which is 14.58 kj/kg/h. A very high intensity for a mountain stage, especially in La Vuelta, as Jumbo-Visma were pacing hard on the early slopes with Jan Tratnik and Attila Valter. Jonas Vingegaard was sitting behind Valter, while Sepp Kuss was not used as a domestique as he has a three minute advantage over the big GC favourites and a great chance to take the red jersey from Lenny Martinez who was dropped early from the GC group. After Valter finished and Jumbo-Visma had no domestiques left, Quick-Step paced hard with Louis Vervaeke and Mattia Cattaneo as the last climbing domestique. It was not a good day for the slender Jan Hirt who was dropped early.

Quick-Step were confident in Remco Evenepoel, who accelerated early with 5.1 km to go, reducing the group to a handful of the best climbers. Kuss was feeling strong and later launched past Evenepoel who kept calm and was holding his tempo with Vingegaard and Roglič in his wheel. With them still in the group was Enric Mas, Juan Ayuso, while Joao Almeida, who crashed early on the stage, and Marc Soler were trying their best not to lose contact.

Sepp Kuss getting brought back by Evenepoel

Evenepoel brought back Kuss slowly. When 400 metres were left in the climb Evenepoel upped the tempo and Kuss, Almeida and Soler could not keep up with the acceleration. Jumbo-Visma did not try to launch with Roglič and Vingegaard and let the Belgian champion do his own pace. The tempo was really hard and everyone was on the limit or very close to it.

Xorret de Cat’ – Spain – cycling – Remco Evenepoel (BEL / Team Soudal – Quick Step) – Primoz Roglic (SLO / Team Jumbo-Visma) pictured during Vuelta Espana 2023 – 78th edition – stage 8 – Denia : Xorret de Cat’ Costa Blanca Interior (165km) – Photo: Luis Angel Gomez/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

Evenepoel did Xorret de Cati in 13 minutes, pushing 7.12 ᵉW/Kg into a headwind on the climb. According to our calculations, Mas, Vingegaard and Ayuso saved 0.07 ᵉW/Kg in the draft of Evenepoel whilst Roglič only saved 0.05 ᵉW/Kg, as he was half-wheeling Evenepoel most of the time and did not sit in the perfect draft.

This was the fastest ascent of Xorret de Cati since 2000, when the Banesto climber Eladio Jimenez in the first week did the climb in 12:42 min with 7.22 ᵉW/Kg. Wout Poels in 2016 won a Volta a Valencia stage on Xorret de Cati, but today was six seconds faster with 6.78 ᵉW/Kg, good enough for ninth on the stage.

When Evenepoel is in good shape he is great on steep and short climbs like in the 2022 San Sebastian Klasikoa where he dropped everyone on Erlaitz (3.8 km, 10.74%) - a very similar effort to today. The ᵉW/Kg today was more impressive than the La Vuelta 2022 effort on Les Praeres (3.77 km, 13.29%) and Roglič, Ayuso and Evenepoel probably could have pushed even a little bit more on the climb but it did not finish right at the top and they had to worry about their competitors in their wheel.

Evenepoel did the whole descent and the 3km part after the climb at the front, keeping the pace high and preventing more attacks like on the climb. After the finish the Belgian champion stated that he did not know the GC group were fighting for a stage win, which might be the reason why he did the leadout for Primož Roglič who took his 11th La Vuelta stage victory. Evenepoel finished with another six bonus seconds, while Kuss became the new red jersey as Lenny Martinez lost more than a minute to him alongside Cian Uijtdebroeks who had a bad day. The GC favourites are still very close but the gaps will be bigger after the 25.8 km ITT on Stage 10.

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Jumbo-Visma Dominate on Javalambre | La Vuelta 2023 Stage 6

Stage 6 brought the second mountain test of this Vuelta, with Remco Evenepoel losing some time on the steep Javalambre climb but narrowly remaining ahead of his main rivals in GC. Jumbo-Visma had a wonderful day, as Sepp Kuss won from a very strong breakaway and almost become the race leader whilst Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard were the strongest from the GC group.

Vuelta a Espana Stage 6 2023 profile

It was a hard 183 kilometre day with a steep finish up Alto de Javalambre (7.35 km, 9.52%). 4,000 metres of total elevation gain and hot weather made this a big GC day despite the solitary Category 1 climb.

In the first half of the stage, before the TV cameras were rolling, a huge breakaway formed with multiple fringe GC threats. Sepp Kuss, Lenny Martinez, Mikel Landa, Marc Soler, Wout Poels, Romain Bardet, Steff Cras, Hugh Carthy, Augusto Einer Rubio, Santiago Buitrago, David de la Cruz and many more strong names were in this star-packed breakaway all of whom on 2 minutes or less behind Evenepoel. Unfortunately Jay Vine crashed out of the race early and had to abandon La Vuelta, a big blow for UAE Team Emirates.

The breakaway gained enough lead to make one of the riders the new virtual race leader, the young French talent Lenny Martinez. He and Sepp Kuss were the favourites for the stage victory as they had not lost much time to Remco Evenepoel in the previous stages and showed great performance on the first climbing day in Andorra. Almost a four minute lead before the steep slopes was enough for them to gain multiple minutes over the top GC riders. Thymen Arensman in the GC group before Javalambre spent 4,153 kilojoules for 4:29h, which is 13.41 kj/kg/h. A hard day in the saddle but not too intense compared to a Grand Tour Queen stage like Col de la Loze this year in the Tour de France, where the riders raced at around 15 kj/kg/h before the final 10km from Meribel.

Michael Storer pulling hard in the breakaway for his teammate Lenny Martinez

Meanwhile in the GC group, Soudal – Quick Step were not pacing particularly hard with Cattaneo, Vervaeke and Hirt in the train. They set a steady pace like INEOS (as Sky) did in the past, reducing the GC group to around 20 riders. However when Roglič accelerated from the group, Remco Evenepoel was distanced immediately, together with Geraint Thomas and it was clear that Quick-Step had been riding at a comfortable pace for the Belgian as he was not feeling particularly well on the day. Evenepoel crashed hard after his stage victory in Andorra and that might have cost him something in such an attritional stage.

Remco Evenepoel dropped with Geraint Thomas

With Roglič in front, Jonas Vingegaard had the luxury to draft behind Juan Ayuso, Enric Mas and Cian Uijtdebroeks who all were chasing the Slovenian. The Jumbo-Visma GC stars today unveiled their multiple leader strategy and it worked to great effect.

Vuelta Espana 2023 – 78th Edition – 6th stage La Vall d’Uixó – Observatorio Astrofísico de Javalambre 183,1km – 31/08/2023 – Primoz Roglic (SLO – Jumbo – Visma) – Scenery – photo Luis Angel Gomez/SprintCyclingAgency©2023

In the breakaway group it also was the Jumbo-Visma show, as Sepp Kuss accelerated and flew past everyone, untouchable after such a hard day and heading to his second La Vuelta stage victory. Lenny Martinez was the biggest threat for Kuss’ red jersey hopes as he worked with Romain Bardet in the second group.

Sepp Kuss in the lead

While the cameras were showing Kuss and Roglič, Vingegaard bridged the gap to his Slovenian teammate with Mas on his wheel, whilst the Hungarian champion Attila Valter was waiting for them as a satellite rider to give a pull for a few minutes. Jumbo-Visma could not have wanted for more from the stage and they were absolutely dominating at this point.

Observatorio Astrof’sico de Javalambre – Spain – cycling – Attila Valter (HUN / Team Jumbo-Visma) – Primoz Roglic (SLO / Team Jumbo-Visma) – Jonas Vingegaard (DEN / Team Jumbo-Visma) – Enric Mas (ESP / Team Movistar) pictured during Vuelta Espana 2023 – 78th edition – stage 6 – La Vall dÕUixo – Observatorio Astrof’sico de Javalambre 183,1km – 31/08/2023- Photo: Luis Angel Gomez/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

After Valter finished his job, Roglič and Vingegaard were riding together without Mas on their wheel like in Trofeo Baracchi. Roglič looked stronger than Vingegaard who very likely is not in his Tour de France shape as it only finished over a month ago before La Vuelta whilst Roglič has had the ideal Vuelta preparation. In the end they seemed to lose time against their rivals in the last kilometre, as Juan Ayuso almost caught them and Uijtdebroeks and Mas were not far away. Evenepoel regained strength after getting dropped, like on the Sierra la Pandera stage in 2022,and did not lose even a minute in the end.

Observatorio Astrof’sico de Javalambre – Spain – cycling – Jonas Vingegaard (DEN / Team Jumbo-Visma) – Primoz Roglic (SLO / Team Jumbo-Visma) pictured during Vuelta Espana 2023 – 78th edition – stage 6 – La Vall dÕUixo – Observatorio Astrof’sico de Javalambre 183,1km – 31/08/2023- Photo: Rafa Gomez/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

Sepp Kuss won from the breakaway but he slowed down a bit in the final metres and gave high fives to the crowd. Lenny Martinez finished 26 seconds behind in second place and beat Kuss’ by 8 seconds in the GC and became the new red jersey. Evenepoel lost only 32 seconds to Roglič and Vingegaard meaning he remains as the highest rider from the GC favourites with Mas, Vingegaard, Roglič, Ayuso, Uijtdebroeks and Almeida all being within 30 seconds. The gaps are still close and nothing is decided, just like last year when Evenepoel had a few bad days. Martinez and Kuss are almost 3 minutes ahead of the big GC riders but it will be hard for them both hold this gap with the 25 kilometre time trial on Stage 10 and many hard stages to come.

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The ᵉW/Kg were not high on Javalambre as Soudal-Quick Step did not pace it hard and Roglič attacked late in the climb. Roglič and Vingegaard pushed 6.32 ᵉW/Kg for 23:10 min on the steep part of the climb. Evenepoel did 6.18 ᵉW/Kg for 23:42, similar to the stage winner Kuss’ 6.12 ᵉW/Kg for 23:54. Miguel Angel Lopez in La Vuelta 2019 was 31 seconds faster than Roglič with 6.51 ᵉW/Kg on this climb, as Roglič on that stage lost 12 seconds to the flying Colombian. Kuss from the GC group in 2019 performed very well finishing together with Nairo Quintana and being faster by 21 seconds than from the breakaway in 2023.

GC Kuss is one of the best climbers in the world and in theory he might be capable of finishing very high in the GC especially as he thrives on the hard stages to come. Kuss might become the race leader after the Xorret de Cati rampas inhumanas on Stage 8 but on the the 25.8 km ITT on Stage 10 he might lose two or even three minutes to Evenepoel. After that there are no time-trials but Kuss is a Jumbo-Visma rider and with Roglič and Vingegaard on the team someone must work at the front of the GC group on climbs and there might be not enough freedom for the American Eagle who is doing his third Grand Tour in 2023, with no signs of slowing down yet.