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Kaden Groves takes the sprint finish to win the Vuelta a España with Sepp Kuss as the overall winner.

Sepp Kuss became the first American to win one of Europe’s Grand Tours since Chris Horner in 2013, arriving in Madrid on Sunday evening as champion of the 2023 Vuelta a España.

Kaden Groves, a rider for Alpecin-Deceuninck, emerged victorious in the final sprint finish of the Vuelta race in Madrid. This marked the third Grand Tour victory of the year for Jumbo-Visma, with Primoz Roglic winning the Giro d’Italia and Jonas Vingegaard taking the Tour de France.

The Dutch squad dominated the final rankings, with Vingegaard and Roglic securing second and third place overall in the Vuelta.

Some doubt has arisen due to the team’s overwhelming success in the 2023 season, especially following the revelation that their rider, Michel Hessmann, failed a drug test for a prohibited diuretic in June and was subsequently investigated by German officials.

During his press conference as the winner, Kuss clearly stated his opposition to using performance-enhancing methods. He firmly believes that cheating or doping goes against the true spirit of sports.

Losing is an integral aspect of sports, and while winning is desirable, engaging in forbidden activities or cheating instills fear of losing. This serves as a reminder that a crucial aspect of sports is acknowledging that at times, one may not measure up.

Vingegaard acknowledged the skepticism surrounding the team’s performance, similar to his experience during the Tour de France. However, he emphasized the team’s dedication and attention to detail, which greatly contributes to their success. He believes that their team’s meticulous preparation sets them apart and is often overlooked by others. He also reassured that both he and his teammates do not use any performance-enhancing substances.

Sepp Kuss celebrates with Jonas Vingegaard

Kuss successfully navigated through a difficult power struggle with his renowned teammates and has become a highly revered and well-liked champion in the Grand Tours of recent times. It remains uncertain if this victory was a singular occurrence or the start of a new chapter in his career. Vingegaard acknowledged Kuss’s talent and expressed that having him as a teammate in the mountains would be greatly missed if he were to receive more opportunities.

In the meantime, a bruised Geraint Thomas, who came in second place to Roglic in the Giro, was left to recover from his injuries. The leader of the Ineos Grenadiers team was affected by multiple crashes in Spain and as a result, dropped significantly in the overall rankings.

“I didn’t want to give up while I still had the ability to compete and ride,” he stated to GCN after completing stage 20. “Although I haven’t been actively racing, I’ve been persevering. Being here as the leader, I felt a responsibility to fully support my team and stay with them, and also boost morale.”

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The British squad, who at the peak of their time with Team Sky had aspirations of claiming victory in all three Grand Tours, had little reason to rejoice other than a time trial stage victory by the dependable Filippo Ganna.

Throughout the summer, the team has been plagued by speculations of expensive transfers, mergers, and takeovers. However, besides seeing several important riders, such as 2020 Giro champion Tao Geoghegan Hart, leave the team, there has been little solid information to share.

The attempt to sign Remco Evenepoel, the current world time trial champion and winner of the King of the Mountains title in the Vuelta, seems to have come to a halt. Meanwhile, speculations about the potential transfer of a frustrated Roglic have been dismissed.

The previously successful team is struggling towards the end of the year, unsure of what lies ahead and longing for change. Despite the strong lineup of Tadej Pogacar’s UAE Emirates, they have been unable to match the unwavering dominance of Kuss, Vingegaard, Roglic, and their teammates.

Source: theguardian.com