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As it happened: Vingegaard and Roglic protect Kuss' GC lead as Evenepoel wins Vuelta a España stage 18

Profile of stage 18 of la Vuelta a España 2023

(Image credit: ASO/Unipublic)

Vuelta a España - Everything you need to know

Today's stage in the Asturias mountains ends with the ninth and final mountain finish this year's Vuelta.

As the Cyclingnews blimp takes height, the team are signing on at the start. The sun is out. 

As the map shows, the stage is deep into the Asturias countryside in northern Spain.

The stage is about to start but the debate about yesterday's stage and the way Jumbo-Visma rages on.

Jumbo-Visma is the last team to sign on. It'll be fascinating to see how they race today.    

Stage 18 is underway.

The riders face a 3.7km neutralised section before the flag drops and racing starts.

Remco Evenepoel is tucked up behind the race director's car. He looks ready to attakc again. 

They're off and the attacks start flying straight away. 

Sepp Kuss spoke briefly before the stage start. 

170km to go

165km to go

The peloton has imposed a barrage on the front, stopping more attacks. 

160km to go

Evenepoel is confirmed in the attack. 

Also there are Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious), Andreas Kron (Lotto-Dstny), Egan Bernal (Ineos), Lorenzo Germani (Groupama-FDJ) and Hugo Hofstetter (Arkéa-Samsic) , Max Poole (DSM-Firmenich) and Nico Denz (Bora-hansgrohe).

155km to go

The gap is up to 4:00. The break has gone! 

Jumbo-Visma have placed their domestiques on the front to keep the break in check but the gap is up to 5:00. 

145km to go

Sepp Kuss spoke to Eurosport and other broadcasters at the start. He was cautious what could happen and the Jumbo-Visma tactics but he seems confident the team will help him today. 

Kuss accepted that a team leader is usually protected by his teammates but acknowledged that he may need to show more killer instinct.  

The opinion on social media and across the sport is that Kuss deserves to win the Vuelta, for his great performance in this year's race and for all the vital support he has given Roglic, Vingegaard and the team over the years. 

135km to go

After a fast 45km opening kilometres, the riders are  on the first categorised climb of the stage, the Alto de las Estacas. 

Evenepoel needs to ride a smart race if he also wants to win the stage.

Remco Evenepoel confirmed he has two ambitions today. 

These are the 14 rider in the break: Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep), Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious), Julien Bernard (Lidl-Trek), Lewis Askey and Lorenzo Germani (Groupama-FDJ), Nico Denz (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jarrad Drizners and Andreas Kron (Lotto-Dstny), Andrea Piccolo (EF-EasyPost), Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Max Poole (DSM-Firmenich), Hugo Hofstetter (Arkea-Samsic) and Paul Ourselin (TotalEnergies).

130km to go

Sepp Kuss looks calm and in control for now, as he rides in the slipstream of his teammates. 

The riders can enjoy a 30km valley rode to the foot of the Puerto de San Lorenzo climb. 

112km to go

105km to go

99km to go

The gradient will hurt some in the break and the GC peloton.

As expected, the break is splitting. 

95km to go

The break is less than three kilometres from the summit of the climb. 

The only riders dropped so far are Lorenzo Germani (Groupama) and Hugo Hofstetter (Arkéa Samsic).

If you are a Cyclingnews Member, thank you for your support. We wouldn't be able to provide our in depth race coverage without you. 

90km to go

Riders in the GC group collect bidons and musettes near the summit of the climb. 

The 2023 Vuelta a España completes the high mountain stages on Thursday with the ninth and a double ascent and final summit finish on the ultra-steep Puerto de la Cruz de Linares.

This is the nasty profile of the stage. 

70km to go

64km to go

60km to go

At the summit, only Poole, Caruso, Bernard, Piccolo, Kron, Ourselin and Bernal are able to stay on Evenepoel's wheel. 

Julien Bernard and Andrea Piccolo may get back on during the descent but the others are perhaps cast to the wind.

We're into the final 50km of the stage. 

Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep), Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious), Max Poole (Team DSM-firmenich), Hugo Hofstetter (Arkea-Samsic), Andreas Kron (Lotto-Dstny), Andrea Piccolo (EF-EasyPost), Julien Bernard (Lidl-Trek) and Paul Ourselin (TotalEnergies) remain out front.

40km to go

35km to go

Kron has gone! He attacked first but then was soon dropped.

Poole is only 20 but is showing his climbing talents.

30km to go

The climb starts with Tratnik and van Baarle still leading for Jumbo. 

Evenepoel continues to stomp on the pedals as behind him both Poole and Caruso seem to be hurting. 

In the GC group, Bahrain have moved up to the front to again try to hurt Ayuso and Mas.   

Up front Evenepoel has gone. Caruso and then Poole cracked after just a few powerful pedal strokes 

25km to go

Poole reaches the summit more than 1:00 down on Evenepoel but that's a superb ride from the 20-year-old Briton.  

Evenepoel is diving down the descent but knows he does not have to take too many risks. 

Poole has pulled back a few seconds on Evenepoel on the descent but now the Belgian is ticked in his aero road position and riding at speed in the valley road back to the climb. 

Meanwhile the peloton reach the top of the climb at 11:25. 

10km to go

7km to go

In the GC group, UAE have taken over on the front after Vlasov of Bora made an attack. 

6km to go

Vlasov leads the GC group by 10 seconds and so his chances have ended. The Russian will now have race his GC rivals face to face on the climb to the finish.

Ayuso leads Landa by just 16 seconds and so that will be another battle on the climb, as well as the Jumbo leadership shakeout.  

Wout Poels is upping the pace to set-up Landa.  

Evenepoel is just 4km from the finish and from victory. 

Behind the GC leaders catch Vlasov. 

The GC group is 11:00 behind Evenepoel and so still have a lot of climbing and suffering to come.

Landismo is happening. 

But Jumbo-Visma trio of Vingegaard, Kuss and Roglic soon take over.

Landa knows he need to gain 16 seconds on Ayuso to move up to fourth, while Mas is only 14 behind Landa. 

Vingegaard is clearly riding for Kuss at the moment. 

Landa goes again and Ayuso goes with him but Jumbo don't move. 

Up the road, Evenepoel is about to win the stage. 

Evenepoel points to his head to indicate his mental strength. 

He won't win this Vuelta but this is an incredible ride across the three weeks. 

Evenepoel makes a heart shape with his hands as he wins the stage.

Evenepoel celebrates with his Soudal team staff. He is very proud of this win. 

It's his third stage won  and today he also mathematically sealed victory in the mountains competition.

The Kuss group is 3km from the finish. The American looks good and in control. 

Vingegaard is leading Roglic and Kuss. He seems to be respecting Kuss' race lead. 

Damiano Caruso finishes second on the stage but 4:40 down on Evenepoel.

Other riders, including Poole and Kron finish too. 

1km to go for the Kuss group. 

Ayuso tries to attack but it is Kuss jumps on his wheel. He is on control. 

Ayuso goes again. upsetting the Jumbo control. 

Here they come.

Enric Mas bring them home. 

Kuss thanks Vingegaard and heads to the podium. He keeps the red jersey and will wear for Friday's flat stage to Íscar. His biggest, final danger is Saturday's 207km hilly stage to Guadarrama but He and Jumbo seem in total control. 

Here is the moment Evenepoel won the stage.

"The heart message at the finish was form my wife Oumi," Evenepoel revealed. 

Evenepoel was confident today. 

Vingegaard lost nine seconds to Kuss at the finish and so is now second at 17 seconds.

Primoz Roglic finished in the same time as Kuss and so is third at 1:08.

Saturday's hilly stage will be the most testing stage but Kuss seemed strong today, despite all the tension about leadership and third being his third Grand Tour of 2023.

Remco Evenepoel wanted to win the GC at the Vuelta buty hasa found consolation after his bad day on the stage to the Tourmalet.

This shot encompasses the day for Jumbo-Visma. 

Sepp Kuss looks tired but happy after the stage.

Is the Vuelta won he was asked. 

Here's a happy Sepp Kuss on the podium in the leader's red jersey.

"I knew today was gonna be another really important day. And I knew I had to be really concentrated and also have a good performance today to, to be able to stay in the jersey," Kuss told Eurosport/GCN. 

Kuss admitted there had been an important team meeting at Jumbo-Visma last night to decide the team's strategy. They appear to have decided to back Kuss for overall victory. 

To read our full stage report on all the action of stage 18 and to see our growing photo gallery and see the full results, click below.

Thanks for following our full live coverage of stage 18 of the Vuelta.

Hasta luego!

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