Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) wrestled victory from Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) in a fabulous sprint finish at the end of Stage 20 of La Vuelta a Espanā 2023.
Poels was a vision of unbridled joy after crossing the line having played his part in a five-man lead group that put on a pulsating show amidst the final kilometres of this stage.
After 208 km of tarmac and cobbled road, it was another remarkable finish to what has been a wonderful Vuelta.
For most of the day, Soudal Quick-Step appeared to be orchestrating another stage victory for their star man Evenepoel. They pushed a fierce pace to prevent any attacks and held an excellent position at the front of the group with 10km to go and a final climb to conquer.
However, it was Wout Poels who propelled himself forward alongside Lennert Van Eetvelt (Lotto Destny) in an effort to put themselves beyond the reach of the dangerous young Belgian.
Eventually, a five-man group that also contained Pelayo Sanchez (Burgos-BH) and Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) sped past the flamme rouge towards the finish line.
Woet Poels kicked first, seizing a gap in front of him as Evenepoel found himself ever so slightly out of position. Poels then clung on to take the stage win.
“I am like a bottle of wine…the older it gets the better!”
Poels was in a hearty mood after another fantastic day in what has been a very strong year for the Bahrain Victorious veteran.
“I am like a bottle of wine…the older it gets the better! No, it is amazing, especially Stage 20, beating riders like Evenepoel, Soler … super,” he said.
“In the year I won Liège [Bastogne-Liège] we also attacked on the cobbles, today also attacked on the cobbles. I think in Liège we also went in the last corner for the sprint, here also. It’s super.”
Jumbo-Visma give Kuss a postcard finish
Over ten minutes after Wout Poel’s sprint finish, three riders could be seen hand in hand approaching the finish line.
After a hugely controversial Stage 17 led to a moral reckoning for Team Jumbo-Visma, they responded with a display of unity to silence the critics.
In another emotional moment of this year’s Vuelta, Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard rode either side of Sepp Kuss, linking arms and all but crowning him this year’s La Vuelta a Espanā champion.
For a rider who has worked tirelessly and without complaint for his two teammates, it is fitting that he is the man to complete Jumbo-Visma’s hat-trick of Grand Tour victories this year.
It would require a catastrophe for Kuss to lose his advantage on Sunday’s final processional stage into Madrid.
“It was a super special moment”
Upon crossing the finish line, Kuss wore a beaming smile that shone brightly on this overcast day as he spoke about what this moment meant to him.
“It was a super special moment. To be able to relax that much in the last [kilometer] of a mountain stage with your two teammates is just really cool,” Kuss said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Jumbo-Visma’s managing director Richard Plugge praised his team after what has been an extraordinary year.
“It was the plan in January but we wanted to go step-by-step. First the Giro, then the Tour, the goal wasn’t necessarily to win all three, but we wanted to of course. If you pull it off it’s a historic thing that never happened,” he said. “It’s added up to a result like this – it’s incredible.”
As if to symbolise the extent of their dominance this year, Jumbo-Visma retain their whitewash of the podium places with Vingegaard in second (+0:17) and Roglič in third (+1:08).
Vuelta A España 2023: Stage 20 Results
- POELS Wout (Bahrain – Victorious): 4:59:29
- EVENEPOEL Remco (Soudal – Quick Step) Same time
- SÁNCHEZ Pelayo (Burgos-BH): Same time
- VAN EETVELT Lennert (Lotto Dstny) Same time
- SOLER Marc (UAE Team Emirates): + 0:04
- COSTA Rui (Intermarché – Circus – Wanty) +0:26
- TIBERI Antonio (Bahrain – Victorious) Same time
- KÄMNA Lennard (BORA – hansgrohe) Same time
- BARDET Romain (Team dsm – firmenich) Same time
- RUBIO Einer Augusto (Movistar Team) Same time
Vuelta A España 2023: General Classification Standings After Stage 20
- KUSS Sepp (USA/Jumbo-Visma): 74:23:42
- VINGEGAARD Jonas (DEN/Jumbo-Visma): + 0:17
- ROGLIČ Primož (SLO/Jumbo-Visma): + 1:08
- AYUSO Juan (SPA/UAE Team Emirates): + 3:44
- LANDA Mikel (SPA/Bahrain Victorious): + 4:03
- MAS Enric (SPA/Movistar Team): + 4:14
- VLASOV Alexander (BORA-hansgrohe): + 8:19
- UIJTDEBROEKS Cian (BEL/BORA-hansgrohe): + 8:26
- ALMEIDA João (POR/UAE Team Emirates): + 10:08
- BUITRAGO Santiago (COL/Bahrain Victorious): + 12:04
Vuelta A España Jerseys After Stage 20
KUSS Sepp (Jumbo-Visma)
GROVES Kaden (ALPECIN-DECEUNINCK)
EVENEPOEL Remco (Soudal – QuickStep)
AYUSO Juan (UAE Team Emirates)