Vuelta a España 2023, Stage 17: Angliru Delivers High Drama as Kuss Clings to Red Jersey by a Thread

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Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard ride away from Sepp Kuss as they climb the Angliru on Stage 17 of the 2023 Vuelta a Espana.

Reporting from Altu de L’Angliru, Asturias.

Sepp Kuss clawed his way back to defend his red jersey by just eight seconds after being dropped by Jumbo-Visma teammates Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič amid the savage gradients and swirling fog of the infamous Altu de L’Angliru.

Stage 17 was one cycling fans have had circled in their diaries ever since the Vuelta a España 2023 route was announced – and it delivered with interest.

Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) led the early attacks and was first over the Category 1 ascents of Alto de la Colladiella and Alto del Cordal, but the defending champion’s legs packed in as he hit the Angliru and he was quickly collected by the Jumbo-Visma juggernaut.

Kuss, Roglič, and Vingegaard soon pushed their way to the head of the race, opening a gap behind them, before Kuss showed the first signs of fading and a bike’s length opened between them.

Kuss frantically radioed to the team car, but after a moment’s hesitation, Roglič and Vingegaard pressed forward, leaving the red jersey in their wake.

With his shot at Grand Tour glory collapsing, Kuss scrambled frantically and succeeded in holding the gap at around 20 seconds, aided by a pull from Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) in red-hot form.

Ultimately, on what was billed as a day of destiny for Sepp Kuss’ red jersey bid, the American managed to cling on desperately to the race lead – by the narrowest of margins.

Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard cross the finish line after climbing the Altu de L'Angliru on Stage 17 of the 2023 Vuelta a Espana.

Pulsating Day of Action Delivers as many questions as answers

When Evenepoel’s title defense evaporated with his Stage 13 capitulation on the slopes of the Tourmalet, some observers feared the race would descend into a procession given Jumbo-Visma’s stranglehold on the General Classification.

However, the evolving dynamic and competition between the team’s three leaders has instead provided captivating drama and outstanding racing.

Given how much of the past fortnight Sepp Kuss has spent dressed in red, it would be easy to forget that he came into this Vuelta as a super-domestique, racing only to support the campaigns of co-leaders Roglič and Vingegaard – the same role he performed to perfection at the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France respectively.

A team dynamic that was already raising eyebrows was complicated further when Kuss’ exceptional performances in the Vuelta’s opening week saw him catapulted into the race leader’s red jersey.

With Remco Evenepoel still posing a major threat, the Jumbo-Visma team appeared to rally around Kuss as their champion-elect. The aid of superstars Roglič and Vingegaard appeared just reward for the American’s own sacrifices for their past glories.

However, when Evenepoel crumbled on the Tourmalet, the situation was blown wide open – with Vingegaard immediately catapulting himself to the stage victory and biting a huge chunk out of Kuss’ lead.

Jonas Vingegaard accelerates away from the group on Stage 13 of the 2023 Vuelta a Espana.

At the summit that day, the team’s message was of allowing their leaders to race each other, although there were also veiled references to limitations on how far they would be allowed to take this.

Further fuel was added to the fire when Vingegaard stormed to victory again on Stage 16, slashing the American’s lead to just 29 seconds.

As might’ve been expected, the ferocious inclines of the Angliru brought these murky rules of engagement to a head.

At face value, the implications of this battle seem clear – Roglič and Vingegaard knowingly cut Kuss adrift, without support as his chances of victory began to disintegrate on one of the Angliru’s steepest sections.

As Kuss radioed desperately to the team, Vingegaard flicked a glance over his shoulder at his teammate – then vanished into the fog.

Sepp Kuss climbs the Angliru on Stage 17 of the 2023 Vuelta a Espana.

However, the truth may be more complex.

What many riders might have considered a treacherous betrayal – being dropped by your own teammates while defending the lead of a Grand Tour – Kuss appeared to accept with good grace, sharing a sporting embrace with Roglič and Vingegaard at the finish.

Could Roglič and Vingegaard have twisted the knife further? Was Kuss able to limit the losses to 20 seconds himself, or did the pair ease off the gas to ensure their teammate remained in red, albeit by the narrowest margin possible?

One thing was established beyond doubt on the Angliru: the internal battle at Jumbo-Visma sits on a knife’s edge.

“I want my shot”

Kuss gave a conflicting interview after the stage finish, eulogizing about harmony within the team while hints of frustration slipped through.

“It’s a position I never expected to be in, and that’s the beautiful thing about it.

“I came in without any expectations, and I was just looking to help the guys like always. But then I came into this beautiful jersey and all the experiences that come with it.

“I discovered a new level of self-confidence, of racing instinct, and that was really, really beautiful.

“Also with two guys [Roglič and Vingegaard] who, behind the scenes, we work really well together. They’re two big champions.

“But I also want my shot.

“But, I also am happy to work for them when it’s called for. So, yeah, it’s been a beautiful experience.”

Meanwhile, Vingegaard deflected a question from Sean Kelly as to whether he and Roglič had been aware of the growing time gap they were putting into Kuss with their attack.

“The win today was our main goal and to keep [this] situation – one, two, [and] three on GC… I think we can be happy with everything and, to be honest, I’m happy that Sepp is still in the jersey. I would love to see Sepp win this Vuelta a Espana.”

It was an answer Kelly himself immediately dismissed as “a load of baloney”.

Sepp Kuss crosses the line ahead of Mikel Landa on Stage 17 of the 2023 Vuelta a Espana.

“The best one will win”

However, the most revealing answers came in Roglič’s cryptic and contradictory post-race interview.

“Actually, it’s true [that he and Vingegaard knew how large the gap was growing].

“I spoke with [Kuss]. Strange feeling, if I’m honest. On the one hand, you want to keep it going. On the other hand… I don’t want to keep it going, but in the end, I just somehow [kept] going.

“I said to him, the way I went, he’s man on man… and the road will tell who will do best. Keep fighting.

“But so far, keep believing, he’s doing great, and he can do it. I’m the first one to say that Sepp is there with all our victories, he’s there. I wish he wins.

“But looking to myself and my responsibilities, who I am, I’m here to race. I’m here to do my best, and at the end, the best one will win.”

Jumbo-Visma lead the peloton up the slopes of the Angliru on Stage 17 of the 2023 Vuelta a Espana.

Vuelta A España 2023: Stage 17 Results

  1. ROGLIČ Primož (SLO/Jumbo-Visma): 3:15:56
  2. VINGEGAARD Jonas (DEN/Jumbo-Visma): Same time
  3. KUSS Sepp (USA/Jumbo-Visma): + 0:19
  4. LANDA Mikel (SPA/Bahrain Victorious): Same time
  5. POELS Wout (NED/Bahrain Victorious): + 0:44
  6. ALMEIDA João (POR/UAE Team Emirates): + 0:58
  7. UIJTDEBROEKS Cian (BEL/BORA-hansgrohe): + 1:20
  8. BUITRAGO Santiago (COL/Bahrain Victorious): Same time
  9. AYUSO Juan (SPA/UAE Team Emirates): + 1:42
  10. MAS Enric (SPA/Movistar Team): + 1:43
Sepp Kuss rides in the red jersey on Stage 17 of the 2023 Vuelta a Espana.

Vuelta A España 2023: General Classification Standings After Stage 17

  1. KUSS Sepp (USA/Jumbo-Visma): 60:34:21
  2. VINGEGAARD Jonas (DEN/Jumbo-Visma): + 0:08
  3. ROGLIČ Primož (SLO/Jumbo-Visma): + 1:08
  4. AYUSO Juan (SPA/UAE Team Emirates): + 4:00
  5. LANDA Mikel (SPA/Bahrain Victorious): + 4:16
  6. MAS Enric (SPA/Movistar Team): + 4:30
  7. UIJTDEBROEKS Cian (BEL/BORA-hansgrohe): + 6:43
  8. VLASOV Alexander (BORA-hansgrohe): + 7:38
  9. ALMEIDA João (POR/UAE Team Emirates): + 9:26
  10. BUITRAGO Santiago (COL/Bahrain Victorious): + 11:26

Vuelta A España Jerseys After Stage 17

Red Jersey

KUSS Sepp (Jumbo-Visma)

Green Jersey


Polka-Dot Jersey

EVENEPOEL Remco (Soudal – QuickStep)

White Jersey

AYUSO Juan (UAE Team Emirates)

Stage 17 Combativity Award

EVENEPOEL Remco (Soudal – QuickStep)

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As a UESCA-certified cycling coach, Rory loves cycling in all its forms, but is a road cyclist at heart. He clocked early on that he had much more of a talent for coaching and writing about bikes than he ever did racing them. In recent years, the focus of Rory's love affair with cycling has shifted to bikepacking - a discipline he found well-suited to his "enthusiasm-over-talent" approach.

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