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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, September 3, 2023

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Vuelta a España stage eight team reports

We posted the race organizer's report with the results.

Here's the stage eight report from stage winner Primoz Roglic's Team Jumbo-Visma:

Team Jumbo-Visma made an impressive move in the eighth stage of the Vuelta a España. Primoz Roglic gave the yellow and black brigade the stage win, while Sepp Kuss took the lead in the general classification.

Primoz Roglic wins stage eight. Sirotti photo

Kuss has crossed the line in seventh place to take the lead in the general classification from Lenny Martinez. After his stage win two days ago, it was another reward for the hard work he has put in all year for leaders Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard.

"I knew there was a chance I could take the jersey depending on how the stage went", Kuss said. "It wasn't until I crossed the line that I realised I had done it. I think it's an honour to wear the red jersey tomorrow. I will try and enjoy it because it's not something I will experience very often."

The 165-kilometre stage featured five categorised climbs. Thirty riders broke away from the peloton after a fast opening phase to take a six-minute lead. Led by Team Jumbo-Visma, the last escapees were caught at the foot of the Xorret de Catí.

Kuss was the first to make his move on this steep climb. The American opened up a small gap but was reeled in by the race leaders just before the summit. Roglic and Vingegaard followed the wheel of Remco Evenepoel, who kept the pace high on the climb and the descent.

Sepp Kuss will start stage nine in the race leader's red jersey. Sirotti photo

In the tricky uphill final kilometre, Evenepoel started his sprint first, but it was Roglic who took his 13th win of the season. It was the 52nd victory of the season for Team Jumbo-Visma. "I'm thrilled with this. It's always a bit of a gamble in a sprint like this, but it worked out well", Roglic said. "It was a tough day. The team worked incredibly hard all day and did everything possible to overtake the lead group. There was no other option for me than to win."

Like Roglic, Kuss expressed his gratitude. "The team did a great job, especially Robert Gesink. He rode so hard that everyone suffered, and I even started to doubt if I had good legs for a moment", Kuss said with a smile. "But all the other guys deserve credit too. I'm sure they gave Primoz the motivation to win this stage."

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Here's the report from stage eight second place Remco-Evenepoel's Team Soudal Quick-Step:

Xorret de Cati (3.9km, 11.4%), the lung-bursting climb that propelled Julian Alaphilippe to his first Grand Tour stage victory six years ago, returned at the Vuelta, again in the first week, just before the race’s third summit finish. The last hurdle of the day, Xorret de Cati brought not just some inhuman ramps, but also a remarkable display of strength and confidence from Remco Evenepoel under immense pressure.

Remco Evenepoel heads to the stage start. Sirotti photo

A small group led by the Soudal Quick-Step boys arrived at the bottom of the ascent, just a couple of seconds behind the day’s breakaway, who was easily caught by Mattia Cattaneo and Louis Vervaeke, paving the way for the battle of the GC men. The first to move was Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), but Remco remained calm and just upped the pace without getting out of the saddle on the steep slopes that at times reached 20%, pushing a tempo that brought back the US rider while at the same time prevented his two teammates from launching an attack of their own.

Evenepoel continued to lead the group over the top of the climb and onto the descent, and even had something left after all this incredible effort to sprint and take a solid runner-up, a result that brought him six bonus seconds. Following this impressive ride, the Belgian Champion moved up to sixth on the overall standings, with one stage to go before the first rest day of the race.

“I told my team today that I needed them to go full gas in the first kilometer of Xorret de Cati, and that after I would ride my own tempo. I felt good during the stage. When Kuss went, I didn’t panic and gradually pulled him back, knowing there were another eight or ten minutes of climbing left. Then, in the sprint, I finished second, which is quite a pity, as I really believe I could have won, but the thing is I thought there was still a rider in front. It was a communication problem and it’s frustrating, but it is as it is”, explained Remco after his 21st top three of the season.

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Team INEOS Grenadiers posted this:

Jonathan Castroviejo rode hard in the breakaway on stage eight at the Vuelta a Espana, while Geraint Thomas put in a battling ride to limit his losses the day after a crash.

A bandaged Geraint Thomas heads to the start line. Sirotti photo.

On a day of climbing, Castroviejo was part of a second surge of rider to go clear, combining to form a large 30 rider group at the head of the race.

Egan Bernal had helped kick-start the moves from the peloton after an initial 12-man group had gone clear. The Colombian would also be there to help Thomas, who dug deep to finish the stage after taking a painful knock to his knee on Friday.

The Welshman crossed the line 3:32 back alongside Bernal, while Castroviejo was among the riders overhauled late on by the charging GC group.

At the finish it was Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) who went toe to toe with Remco Evenepoel (Soudal - Quick-Step) in the uphill sprint. The Slovenian narrowly edged out the victory, while his team-mate Sepp Kuss finished seventh to move into the red jersey by 43 seconds. Thomas now sits 23rd overall.

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And here's the report from Lenny Martinez's Team Groupama-FDJ:

For his second day in the red jersey on the Vuelta, Lenny Martinez had to face the attacks on Saturday. Stage 8, concluding with the steep climb of Xorret de Cati, did hurt the legs, but the young leader of Groupama-FDJ enjoyed the support of his teammates until the final battle. Although he could not keep up with the best, he did put on a good fight with Michael Storer to limit his losses. On the line, he eventually lost just over a minute, and his red jersey at the same time. He still remains third overall and leads the young rider’s ranking. The first week of the Vuelta will come to an end on Sunday with another summit finish.

In the aftermath of a rather quiet stage, Lenny Martinez expected the situation to be quite different on Saturday. Stage 8 featured 3,500 metres of elevation gain and not so much flat terrain. The peloton was heading to the brutal Xorret de Cati (3.8 km at 11.5%), but the bumpy profile to reach it also made for quite a tough day on the saddle.

“We knew from the start that it was going to be hard”, explained Benoît Vaugrenard. “We thought the breakaway could go all the way today, so there were a lot of contenders.” The fight went on for almost an hour, until the end of the day’s first climb, and thirty riders managed to get away. “Once it went, we tried to maintain the gap knowing that the best rider overall was four minutes behind Lenny,” added Benoît. “Jumbo-Visma then came to chase, but we did quite a bit of work at first with Clément and Sam, then Romain and Lewis. The team did a great job, but we quickly understood that Jumbo-Visma wanted to win the stage, or even take the jersey”. Groupama-FDJ kept things in hand until the halfway point, then the Dutch team gradually picked up the pace. Over the climbs, the peloton started to get thinner, but Lenny Martinez still had five teammates after thepenultimate categorized climb. “It was really fast”, said the young man from Cannes. “Jumbo-Visma’s tempo suffocated everyone”.

Lenny Martinez finishes stage eight. Sirotti photo

At the head of the race, the breakaway broke up with the stage victory at stake, but the peloton kept on closing in. Twenty kilometres from the finish, the gap was only one minute, and it was again reduced by half at the bottom of the final climb. Romain Grégoire and Rudy Molard tried to position the red jersey as well as possible for the big battle, and the tempo proved very hard from the first ramps. The peloton exploded, and Lenny Martinez managed to keep the wheels for nearly two kilometres before letting the best slip away.

“I just didn’t have the legs to keep up,” he said later. “The last climb was steep, it suited me well, I had decent legs, but the pace was too fast. I felt before the climb that I was a bit on the limit because of how hard the stage was. Michael waited for me and helped me a lot. I tried to keep a steady tempo so as not to blow up. If that had been the case, I would have lost even more time”.

The young Frenchman followed his Aussie mate, did not surrender, and even caught some riders in the last two kilometres of climbing. At the top, he was a minute behind the main favourites, who battled for victory after a short descent and a last kilometre uphill. Primoz Roglic won the stage, and Lenny Martinez crossed the line with a decent 13th position, 1’10 behind the Slovenian.

Since Sepp Kuss and Marc Soler managed to keep the pace in the lead, the former rider from “La Conti” however slipped to third place overall. He therefore had to return his leader’s jersey on Saturday afternoon, after two memorable days. “Obviously I would have liked to keep the red jersey longer”, said Lenny. “I’m a bit disappointed to lose it, because you quickly get used to it (smiles), but I still have the white one. I only lost a minute, and that’s not so bad, given how tough the stage and the last climb were. In front, that’s the guys fighting for the final win on the Vuelta, they are champions. I’m happy not to lose too much time”.

“He may have paid a little for the various protocols of the last few days, but he is young and that’s normal”, added Benoît. “He lost the jersey, but he is still third overall and with the white jersey. Tomorrow, the team will be able to breathe a little, as he will from this evening. Of course, we are disappointed, but it may not be so bad for the future”. A crucial lieutenant for his young matethis Saturday, Michael Storer added: “I would not speak of frustration. It was a hard stage and Jumbo-Visma decided to go for it. Lenny lost the jersey, but he can be proud of his ride. He exceeded his own expectations, by far. There are no regrets. We have the youngest team in the race and five riders are riding their first Grand Tour. When I was racing my first Vuelta, I was just trying to reach Madrid. It’s impressive what the guys are doing.”

Sunday, the riders will head to the top of the Collado de la Cruz de Caravaca (8km at 5%) after a slightly less hilly stage. “We can once again think that the breakaway will make it, there will be a big fight at the start, then the peloton will decide, in particular Jumbo-Visma”, added Benoît Vaugrenard. Lenny Martinez will enter the day one minute behind the new red jersey, Sepp Kuss, but with an unchanged goal. “I’m still in the mix, and the goal when you fight for the GC is to not lose ten minutes on one day”, he concluded. “If I can’t follow the best, and I lose more or less a minute everytime, that’s okay. The goal is to be consistent and that’s what I intend to do. Now, back to the white jersey and to an almost normal life”.

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