The hilltop finish at La Laguna Negra was supposed to be a launchpad for a GC climber.
There was supposed to be fireworks, guys shooting off the front, riders just outside the top ten desperately trying to break in, Remco or Roglic attacking the final kilometer or final 500 meters, looking for a 30 second gap.
None of that happened. It was like a fourth of July in a rainstorm. No fireworks, major disappointment, general sogginess.
Oh, there were attacks on the Laguna Negra but they had nothing to do with the GC battle. A big group of 26 riders battled it out against each other for a grand tour victory. Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) did massive pulls to try to get Geraint Thomas a stage win. Opportunists right and left took their chances.
Jonathan Caicedo (EF Education-EasyPost) took his shot with a k to go. Didn’t pan out. Finally, surprise, a Cofidis rider Jesus Herrada attacked with 500 meters left and wiped out everyone. Cofidis, winning grand tour stages — it must be the Helta Skelta Vuelta.
Talk of two races for the price of one quickly became one race for the price of one. None of the GC rivals tried a move, a tentative attack, a feint, anything. Pedals turned not in anger but in disinterest. There would be no shake-ups, no rolls of dice, nobody taking a risk, not with the fearsome Tourmalet in just a few days. Power kept dry, no matches burned, etc etc.
At the five hundred meter mark, something did happen. Remco Evenepoel didn’t exactly attack, it was more of a gentle probe. He made his trademark acceleration but it wasn’t anything brutal because Sepp Kuss and his red jersey jumped right on his wheel.
Kuss must have learned something after all these grand tours, watching Vingegaard sticking to Tadej Pogacar’s wheel when the Slovenian suddenly goes full-gas. Kuss didn’t give Remco a damn second. Kuss is on form, he’s getting hungry, and he plans of eating. #sepptember is a thing.
In fact, ever since Kuss won his Vuelta mountain stage and chugged champagne for 12 seconds straight, he’s been on top of his game. In fact, maybe it is all the bubbly. He’s winning the Vuelta like Jacques Anquetil won the Tour — clearly a champagne hangover isn’t slowing Sepp down.