Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) cemented his position as the foremost sprinter of the 2023 Vuelta with a second consecutive win on yet another crash-strewn stage.
Groves’ closest challenger came from an unlikely source in Ineos Grenadiers’ time-trial specialist Filippo Ganna, who almost clinched victory with a late brute-force attack in the final meters, losing out by half a wheel.
However, in what has been a crash-plagued Vuelta, Stage 5 was once again marred by a major incident in the closing kilometers. Around a dozen riders hit the tarmac, including sprinter Milo Menten (Lotto-Dstny).
All the GC contenders finished safely in the pack, while red jersey Remco Evenepoel took the intermediate sprint for 6 bonus seconds, extending his lead over Enric Mas.
“It’s a fantastic feeling”
“It’s a fantastic feeling to win two stages in a row, especially in the green jersey,” Groves told the waiting press at the finish.
“It was another hectic finale with a lot of roundabouts. On top of the climbing, there was some wind, which made it nervous. But my team was fantastic again despite losing two guys in a crash on a roundabout near the finish.”
The Australian has done excellent work in the first week of the Vuelta, building a solid lead in the race for the green jersey and maintaining a 100% record of wins on stages that present clear opportunities for sprinters.
Controversial crashes taking their toll on the racing
Filippo Ganna was highly impressive in running Groves so close while riding an unfamiliar role, although his track pedigree hints at underlying explosive power to complement his diesel time-trial ability.
However, that the Italian was challenging for the win in a bunch finish at all is indicative of a lack of strength in depth among specialist sprinters at the 2023 Vuelta.
That was always likely since the announcement of a Vuelta route that is particularly hostile to sprinters, even by the standards of the so-called “Climbers’ Grand Tour”.
However, matters haven’t been helped by the scourge of crashes that have plagued the Vuelta’s first week.
France’s Bryan Coquard was sent packing with a suspected shoulder fracture after Stage 4, while Marijn van den Berg and Milan Menten have both missed out on bunch finishes after late incidents, stripping the field of competitors for sprinters’ stages.
Take nothing away from the outstanding Groves, who is achieving everything asked of him with relative ease and asserting his dominance over the remaining sprinters – but it’s hard to disguise the fact that controversial safety issues are hindering the competitiveness of the race in its first week.
Back to the mountains on Stage 6
However, it is the high-altitude action that will define the 2023 Vuelta a España, and Stage 6 looks set to provide a stern challenge to the GC contenders.
With over 4,000 meters of elevation, including a Category 1 summit finish at the Javalambre Observatory Tower, the likes of Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič will be looking to prevent Evenepoel from stamping his authority on the race, as he threatened to on Stage 3.
The Vuelta’s last visit to the observatory in 2019 sparked drama as the peloton fractured, allowing Miguel Ángel López to snatch the red jersey. Expect similar fireworks this time.
Vuelta a España 2023: Stage 5 Results
- GROVES Kaden (AUS/Alpecin-Deceuninck): 4:23:43
- GANNA Filippo (ITA/INEOS Grenadiers): Same time
- VAN GESTEL Dries (BEL/TotalEnergies):
- DAINESE Alberto (ITA/dsm-firmenich):
- ASKEY Lewis (GBR/Groupama-FDJ):
- THEUNS Edward (BEL/Lidl-Trek):
- GONZÁLEZ David (SPA/Caja Rural-Seguros RGA):
- SOUPE Geoffrey (FRA/TotalEnergies):
- EZQUERRA Jesús (SPA/Burgos-BH):
- DRIZNERS Jarrad (AUS/Lotto Dstny):
Vuelta a España 2023: General Classification Standings after Stage 5
- EVENEPOEL Remco (BEL/Soudal-Quick Step): 17:12:29
- MAS Enric (SPA/Movistar): + 0:11
- MARTINEZ Lenny (FRA/Groupama-FDJ): + 0:17
- VINGEGAARD Jonas (DEN/Jumbo-Visma): + 0:37
- VLASOV Aleksandr (BORA-hansgrohe): + 0:39
- UIJTDEBROEKS Cian (BEL/BORA-hansgrohe: Same time
- ROGLIČ Primož (SLO/Jumbo-Visma): + 0:43
- AYUSO Juan (SPA/UAE Team Emirates): + 0:44
- SOLER Marc (SPA/UAE Team Emirates) + 0:48
- ALMEIDA João (POR/UAE Team Emirates): Same time
Vuelta a España Jerseys after Stage 4
EVENEPOEL Remco (BEL/Soudal-Quick Step)
GROVES Kaden (AUS/Alpecin-Deceuninck)
SEPÚLVEDA Eduardo (ARG/Lotto-Dstny)
EVENEPOEL Remco (BEL/Soudal-Quick Step)
Stage 5 Combativity Award Winner
FAGUNDEZ Eric Antonio (URU/Burgos-BH)