Can anyone place a foot on Jumbo-Visma’s podium? | a recap of Stages 10-15 of the 2023 Vuelta a Espana

Remco Evenepoel bested all his overall rivals in the Stage 10 time trial and then won Stage 14 in the Pyrenees. If it weren’t for the small matter of shipping 27 minutes on Stage 13 in between those two triumphs, it would have been a pretty good week for last year’s Vuelta a Espana winner.

That grim stage for Remco featured the greatest density of climbing of any Grand Tour day this year – 4,000m in just 135km. There have been longer mountain stages and there have been stages with more height gain, but none where so much ascending has been packed into so short a distance.

Obviously you don’t lose 27 minutes on just the final climb. (Not if you’re an overall contender anyway – I reckon I could manage it quite easily.) Evenepoel was in trouble early in the day and lost touch with the favourites group with about 90km still to go.

“It was just one of those days where my tank was empty,” he explained.

Not the best time to see the fuel indicator flashing, when you’ve still got to get over the Col d’Aubisque and the Col de Spandelles before tackling the Col du Tourmalet (18.9km at 7.4%).

Stage winner Jonas Vingegaard – who did at least have the decency to look utterly knackered at the finish (unlike the smiling Sepp Kuss) – outlined what Jumbo-Visma’s complex plan had been afterwards. “Our plan was to see if we could take some time off the opponents today, and yeah, that happened.”

Maybe Vingegaard omitted some of the finer points there. Or maybe he didn’t. Being as Jumbo-Visma riders finished first, second and third on the day and took first, second and third overall in the process, maybe it really was as simple as riding hard and brutalising everyone else.

Sepp Kuss – nominally a support rider – finished close enough behind this year’s Tour winner to retain the overall lead. Three-time Vuelta winner Primoz Roglic was just a short distance behind him.

These are riders who arguably don’t need too much help, but they get it anyway. Other Jumbo Visma support riders on the stage included Robert Gesink, who has a couple of top 10 Tour finishes to his name, and Wilco Kelderman, who has achieved top five finishes in all three Grand Tours.

After already taking this year’s Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, it’s now just a question of which Jumbo-Visma rider will win in Spain and whether anyone else might avert total monopolisation of the podium.

The team’s budget is a big part of this, obviously, but it doesn’t explain everything. Ineos Grenadiers reportedly have a far larger budget, for example, and their leading rider here is Geraint Thomas, 1h9m back in 31st place.

Juan Ayuso is currently best placed to break the hegemony and he is almost a minute behind third-placed Vingegaard. The gaps grow fairly rapidly from there.

Here’s hoping Cian Uijtdebroeks vaults up the standings. I feel like the commentators have been specifically avoiding mentioning him for some reason.

A good night’s broken sleep

“I couldn’t sleep too much,” Evenepoel told Eurosport about how he’d reacted to his catastrophe. “I had a very bad night, a lot of negative thoughts in my head. Today I woke up and I said to myself ‘just go for it, make the best of it’.”

And so, far from being fearful of the Pyrenees, the Belgian duly forced his way into the break, rode Romain Bardet off his wheel and won the very next day. Quite the comeback.

He then tried the same trick again in the next stage, at which point Jumbo-Visma started wondering whether he was trying to claw back the small matter of half an hour.

“I had to explain 10 times to Jonas Vingegaard that I am no longer going for the general classification, but he didn’t believe me,” said Evenepoel.

Stage wins and mountain points are what he’s got his sights on now, but after regaining eight minutes with his stage win and another three with what turned out to be fourth place the next day, he says his immediate plan is to, “ensure there’s a good time loss before trying to get into the action in the two big mountains stages that follow.”

It sounds an easier plan to execute than Jumbo’s “take some time off the opponents” plan.

What’s next?

Buying me a coffee? Here’s my Buy Me a Coffee/Belgian beer page if you’re feeling generous and encouraging and feel that this website is not rubbish.

Race-wise, we kick off with an uphill finish on Tuesday, followed by an upmountain finish – the fiendishly steep Angliru, no less – on Wednesday.

Thursday is another mountaintop finish. Friday is completely flat. Saturday has (count ’em) 10 third category climbs and none of either higher or lower categorisation. Friday is the usual sprint finish.

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One response to “Can anyone place a foot on Jumbo-Visma’s podium? | a recap of Stages 10-15 of the 2023 Vuelta a Espana”

  1. Nicholas Ruddick avatar
    Nicholas Ruddick

    Someone may well have asked this already, but does Jonas V seem a bit of a drip? Hugely impressive rider and his ITT at the Tour this year will probably go down as one of the best of all time, but still, Sepp Kuss, Primoz R, Fred Wright and the mainly irrepressible Tadej Pogacar all seem like they’d be pretty good company on and off the bike, JV – yawn zzzz

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