After all the farce, the half-angers and the twisted mouths, came the hugs, the smiles and the pats on the back. The staging of the transfer of powers came in the last stretch of the Guadarrama finish line, converted into a red carpet for the leader. While the three Spanish cyclists fought to see who was going to be fourth overall (neither Landa nor Mas could unseat Ayuso), the three Jumbo riders stopped to enter together and celebrate their almost insulting dominance in the Vuelta, to proclaim that Sepp Kuss will be the winner this Sunday in Madrid and that Vingegaard and Roglic will be the ones accompanying him at the party, as they flanked him at the finish line of the penultimate stage. They advanced the podium 24 hours. That is the superiority.
The chiefs revered and honored Kuss, in the center, in red. Now yes. Perhaps he was false, reluctant, or completely sincere, from the heart. They pointed at him, they elevated him, they gave him the spotlight and they put their hand on his shoulder. The winner of the Tour, on the right, the one who will aim for the Vuelta in the center, the winner of the Giro on the left. A picture for the history. Well, the Jumbo has taken over the big three in 2023 just as it will take over the three drawer spaces in Madrid. Yellow monopoly.
“Almost, I almost won the Vuelta,” says the 29-year-old American, shyly, almost blushing. “I'm exhausted after the stage but very happy. After so much work by the team every day, very happy,” acknowledges Kuss.
At the finish line, photographers immediately surround him when his wife, Noemí, Catalan, kisses him. Then his parents show up, having flown in from Colorado, to be with him on his big day. He points out that he knew that Jumbo had chosen him, that there would be no scare. And even Bimba, his dog, perfectly recognized by him. Nothing fails in the plan.
Although nothing is certain in cycling. Nothing can be taken for granted. Just as the climber, a luxury gregarious, saw the red jersey in L'Angliru jeopardized by pressure from his teammates (verbatim, seeing is believing), Remco Evenepoel (Soudal), who escaped for the fifth day in the last seven stages , it was impossible for him to finish and add his fourth victory.
There are 31 cyclists in the breakaway but everything revolves around one. They all look at the same one. That's what it means to be number 1 and the favorite, perhaps the only one. Evenepoel was the worst enemy in a stage with 10 climbs, all third class, on a leg-breaking route, typical of a classic. His profile suited him and his strength was with him. In form and on a roll, the Belgian champion couldn't ask for more. He even took three teammates to work the 207 km. However, at the last roundabout, in the last corner, he is overtaken by the Dutchman Poels, a veteran long-distance runner of those who improve as the weeks go by, another gregarious, in Sky and Bahrain, who has his days of glory since he also won in the Tour.