Welcome to live coverage of stage 21 of the Vuelta a España!
It's the final day of Grand Tour racing in 2023 and another sprint stage awaits us. Just 101.1km of racing in and around the Spanish capital city Madrid stands in the way of Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) confirming his first Grand Tour victory and it should be little more than a formality and celebration lap for the American.
Riders are completing the final team presentation ahead of the start at the Hipódromo de la Zarzuela with the neutralised start scheduled for 17:15 CET.
Here's Remco Evenepoel's custom blue polka-dot S-Works bike for the final stage of the Vuelta after winning the King of the Mountains classification.
Evenepoel has also gone all out with the full blue and white polka-dot skinsuit for the final stage.
With one Vuelta ending comes the announcements around next year's race. Big news came out today as the start location for the 2024 race was revealed by the race organisers.
Special kit on a special occasion for Jan Tratnik and Jumbo-Visma...
👀 @JumboVismaRoad #LaVuelta23 pic.twitter.com/yKMQVRO0CgSeptember 17, 2023
There's a minute silence ahead of the start of stage 21 in memory of Spanish radio commentator Pepe Domingo Castaño who passed away today, a nice gesture from the race.
Stage 21 of the Vuelta a España is underway! The jersey leaders roll off the line at the had of the race: Sepp Kuss in red, Kaden Groves in green, Remco Evenepoel in polka-dots and Juan Ayuso in white.
All smiles for Kuss ahead of his crowning moment this evening.
101km to go
Must be the shortest neutralised zone I've seen as just a few hundred metres precedes the dropping of the flag. Not that the attacks will fly as today likely won't be too drama-filled with a bunch sprint expected.
Jumbo-Visma - the winners of all three Grand Tours in 2023 with three different riders:
Giro d'Italia - Primož Roglič
Tour de France - Jonas Vingegaard
Vuelta a España - Sepp Kuss
🇪🇸 #LaVuelta23A picture is worth more than a thousand words. 💛❤️#𝐜𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐡𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 pic.twitter.com/M9bxZLWJESSeptember 17, 2023
Jumbo-Visma are going through the celebrations at the back of the peloton. Dylan van Baarle nicely holds up a t-shirt with 'NATHAN' written on the front of it of course as a gesture to teammate Nathan Van Hooydonck who was in a serious car accident last week.
Thankfully his condition was updated positively after the 16th stage when Jonas Vingegaard took his second win of the race.
95km to go
The four jersey winners of the 2023 Vuelta a Espana.
The Portuguese riders in the peloton just shared a nice moment at the back of the peloton with the announcement of the 2024 Vuelta starting in Lisbon providing them an opportunity to race on home roads next year.
Evenepoel with fellow Belgian and Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois this afternoon.
Remco & Thibaut 🤩#LaVuelta23 pic.twitter.com/ADDV8er0UHSeptember 17, 2023
90km to go
The race will complete about 40km of riding around the capital city before entering Madrid and starting laps of a circuit in the city centre.
Name a more iconic trio...
Great crowds unsurprisingly out to support the riders in Madrid.
Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) and Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious). Thomas spoke highly of his former teammate and friend Poels after he took a brilliant stage win yesterday in front of Evenepoel.
80km to go
Still complete calm in the peloton for now.
A look back at the Portuguese line-up from earlier in the stage: João Almeida and Rui Oliveira (UAE Team Emirates), Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) and Andre Carvalho (Cofidis).
🇵🇹 Team Portugal #LaVuelta23 pic.twitter.com/ld801CfrrDSeptember 17, 2023
Caja-Rural and Burgos BH are leading the peloton just in front of Jumbo-Visma.
70km to go
Closing in on the centre of Madrid now to start the first lap of the circuit.
Jumbo-Visma are leading the way as the peloton approach the first crossing of the finish line in Madrid. That will come with 52km remaining in the day. Here's the full eight-rider team from earlier in the day in full victory formation.
We're well into Madrid now. In last year's final sprint stage in the Spanish capital, Juan Sebastian Molano (UAE Team Emirates) was the winner after sprinting so fast in his leadout for Pascal Ackermann that he won the stage ahead of Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek).
60km to go
Brilliant atmosphere in Madrid for the final stage with crowds lining the roads to cheer on the peloton.
Looks as though the other teams are itching to attack, but they will probably let Jumbo-Visma lead the peloton through the first crossing of the finish line before launching their assault of the circuit.
Alpecin-Deceuninck come to the front for the first time as we get an early look at the complete u-turn that arrives 3km from the finish.
50km to go
This seems like the ceremonial start of racing as the peloton crosses the finish line for the first time. Alpecin-Deceunick lead the way to get ready for a period of controlling in aid of Kaden Groves' sprinting ambitions.
Soudal-QuickStep tried an attack but were quickly marked by Alpecin.
Nine laps to go of the Madrid circuit.
A look at the peloton entering Madrid.
Alpecin are doing their best to discourage any attacks by keeping the pace very high at the front of the race. They'll also want to get maximum points at the intermediate sprint for Groves' green jersey.
Groves picks up 20 points at the intermediate sprint, making his lead over Evenepoel in that competition much more comfortable. No one contested the Australian making it one 1/2 jobs done for the day.
Kamna and Denz on the attack for Bora-Hansgrohe. Alpecin will have to be careful to not let too strong of a group get up the road. They've got Costa for company.
Nice message from the Eagle of Durango to family an those at home in Colorado.
👋 Hola papá de Sepp Kuss, mamá de Sepp Kuss, Durango y mamá de Peter Serry.👋 hi Sepp Kuss' dad, Sepp Kuss' mum, Durango and Peter Serry's mum!#LaVuelta23 pic.twitter.com/ARwq0EPsLpSeptember 17, 2023
Groves entering the city centre in his teammate's wheel. He'll be one of the big favourites for the day alongside Molano, Dainese and Ganna.
40km to go
The leading trio of Kamna, Denz and Costa cross the finish line with 7 laps to ride. Their advantage is 37 seconds for now.
Evenepoel attacks! The KOM jersey is on the move, full polka-dot skinsuit and all. Groves is sat on his wheel with a trio of Ineos Grenadiers riders including Ganna.
The leading trio's gap just melted to 17 seconds within a few corners.
How often do you see the points classification leader marking the KOM leader in an attempted breakaway on the final processional sprint stage of a Grand Tour?
Apparently we're getting it here as Groves latches onto Evenepoel's wheel and ensures the Belgian can't get away from his sight on the circuit. They are in a five-man move alongside Ganna and co from Ineos.
35km to go
It's Fraile and Heiduk with Ganna for company in the chasing move.
UAE Team Emirates and EF-Education EasyPost are working to bring things back together behind. The gap from the leading trio is 24 seconds to the five-rider group who sit 20 ahead of the peloton.
How could Evenepoel not attack with this kit and bike combo?
Ganna's two teammates are completely spent and have left the Italian to bridge the gap with just Groves and Evenepoel. This is a very strong group of six riders off the front with Costa, Kamna and Denz all powerful in their own right.
30km to go
EF are leading the charge in the peloton for Van den Berg's sprinting ambitions as the race crosses the finish line again. 16 second gap to the leaders.
5/6 riders in the leading group have won a stage at this year's Vuelta. The only rider in the move to not win one is Denz, who won two Giro stages this year...
Complete panic stations in the peloton behind. The gap is extending and it's out to 22 seconds with UAE and EF realising the danger and trying to bring it back. The problem is that city circuit's make it much more complicated to bring back a seemingly simple 23 second advantage.
The pain on the riders trying to reel back in the breakaway is telling with Lotto-Dstny joining forces with UAE and EF to try and salvage this final stage.
Any rider taking up the mantle on the front of the peloton has the problem of essentially riding a 1vs1 TT against one of the two best time-trial specialists in the world: Evenepoel or Ganna.
25km to go
The gap is coming down with Groupama-FDJ and Cofidis even contributing to the chase behind. It's now back down to 16 seconds.
A look back at Evenepoel's first explosive move of the day.
Are you not entertained? 🤩#LaVuelta23 pic.twitter.com/2SAsO8bspZSeptember 17, 2023
Gap back out to 30 and growing. Ineos and Alepcin are doing a great job of stifling a concerted chase from materialising behind as they sit in the first six wheels of the peloton.
20km to go
Just four laps remaining now for the six out in front to keep working together and have a shot at the stage victory. Evenepoel and Ganna have been taking huge turns on the front.
Kron accelerates on the front in the peloton. Ineos are doing their absolute best to break the rhythm of the chase behind, Geraint Thomas in clear view doing just that.
Sepp Kuss with the perfect matching red Cervelo bike to go with his red jersey.
EF reclaim control in the peloton, but they are quickly running out of numbers. DSM weren't originally top involved but are perhaps now seeing the stage win disappear up the road and starting to help.
15km to go
Denz begins to struggle and starts to trail off the back of the break.
Jumbo-Visma are showing their new jerseys at the head of the peloton as the break continue to work well. The gap has stabilised around the 20-second mark.
Bahrain Victorious mow make their presence known in the peloton, perhaps riding for Govekar in a sprint, if they can bring it back together that is.
10km to go
Gap down to 13 seconds. Can Evenepoel and co make it? When will the attacks start as they surely won't back themselves to beat Groves in the sprint outside of Ganna?
Lidl-Trek suddenly hit the front for Edward Theuns, but can they make the catch. 12 seconds is the gap with 6.2km left to race.
5km to go - final lap
The leaders have taken the bell and it's just one lap left to decide the final stage of the 2023 Vuelta a Espana. Evenepoel leads the six riders through.
It should be enough at 15 seconds, but will they look at each other and allow the peloton to catch them? Costa must be finessing and ready to launch a surprise attack.
The gap goes below ten seconds for the first time since the move went, who will strike out for glory first?
Kamna has Denz in his back wheel and they are the only team with two options, but Denz has looked tired throughout the final 20km.
The breakaway take another full u-turn as they get the peloton in view on the streets of Madrid. Evenepoel leads into the corner and accelerates.
Here comes the peloton! The break cannot look around if they want to make it.
2km to go
The chase behind is running out of firepower despite the gap being as close as ever.
Every team is invested behind even those without an obvious sprint option.
Just one hairpin remains and it will surely be the perfect place to launch a late attack out of the break.
1km to go
Final hairpin taken and it's Kamna leading the group. The peloton is bearing down on them. Have they left it too late?
They sit up in the front and nobody takes up the mantle. Someone has to go!
Evenepoel explodes but he cannot find separation!
He's got a gap but here comes Groves out of his wheel!
Ganna comes close but it's Groves all the way to the line, what a finish!
Kaden Groves wins stage 21 of the 2023 Vuelta a España!
Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) is the winner of the 2023 Vuelta a España.
The American's triumph completes the clean sweep of Grand Tours for the Dutch team with three different riders. Kuss was able to cross the line arm-in-arm with his full team behind the thrilling finish. Chapeau Sepp Kuss.
A masterclass of a stage victory for Groves today as the Australian knew to mark Evenepoel and had the strength to follow him and make the break, take his fair share of turns and then still have enough to power past the Belgian in the final 200 metres.
Groves was delighted after taking his third win of this Vuelta and the green jersey in the process. Here's what the Australian had to say:
"We came into today really wanting to take the stage and obviously the green jersey, but from a breakaway was not my intention," said Groves.
"Remco [Evenepoel] this morning was a threat for the green jersey so I suspected he might try something, not to try to take the jersey, but to try and win the stage.
"I knew I had to follow him [Evenepoel] so when he went, thankfully Edward [Plankaert] did a great job to pull me across the gap."
Groves stayed calm in the final kilometre, trusting his sprint when he launched it.
"It was quite interesting [when the peloton caught them], I didn't want to pull the guys in the last kilometre as obviously then it would take away my sprint," he said.
"We all looked at each other and that meant the peloton could come back together but I knew that in the sprint I could find a little extra and Remco [Evenepoel] leading out at 500 metres is a big advantage for me."
Groves is also the first Australian to ever win the green jersey at the Vuelta.
"It's pretty special [to win the green jersey], again I need to thank my team as without them it wasn't possible."
Here's Kuss past the line with his bike aloft, after winning the Vuelta a España. The biggest win of his career and something he truly deserved. Here's what he had to say after the final stage:
“It’s incredible. I think today it was the stage that I suffered the most of the whole race, now I’m just glad it’s over," said Kuss.
"I had a feeling it would be a fast stage when I saw all those guys getting ready to attack at the beginning.
"Like I said, I suffered more today than I did on the L’Angliru. It was a nice way to finish off.”
He maintained that he would stay the same humble person despite achieving a life-changing victory here in Spain.
“No, not at all. I’ll still be me. It’s life-changing for sure, but I think I’ll just look back on this experience with a lot of fond memories," said Kuss.
"It’s still sinking in and it’s going to take quite some time.
"[Tonight] a big celebration, family and friends are here and that’s going to be really special. And being with the riders and the staff with the stories of the past three weeks, just so many memories.”
Podium presentations in full flow now in Madrid.
Without a doubt the best cycling team in the world - Jumbo-Visma.
Here he is then, the winner of the 2023 Vuelta a Espana - Sepp Kuss. His teammates Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard round out the podium for a Jumbo-Visma 1-2-3 overall, with the team also taking out all three Grand Tours in the same year.
The aforementioned trio of Jumbo-Visma stars that dominate the 2023 Vuelta a España podium in Madrid.
Kuss, a bilingual resident of Andorra, gives his winning speech in both English and Spanish for the Madrid crowd.
The four jersey winners at the 2023 Vuelta a España (from L-R): Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates), Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) and Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep).
Make sure you read Lyne Lamoureux's full stage report from a final day of thrilling action at the race and keep your eyes peeled for news coming out of the race this evening as Cyclingnews' Alasdair Fotheringham is on the ground in Spain.
I'll leave you with another image of Kuss in full celebration with Roglič and Vingegaard to close out Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 2023 Vuelta a España. We've had drama right the way through with the rain in Barcelona, Evenepoel's crash past the finish line and the questions over Jumbo-Visma's tactics, but we've arrived at the finish with Kuss as victor, ending the final Grand Tour of the season. Adiós!
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