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Vuelta a Espana 2019: Jumbo-Visma's Sepp Kuss triumphs on Stage 15, Roglic preserves lead

James Spender
8 Sep 2019

Roglic keeps rolling towards the overall win

American Sepp Kuss, of Jumbo-Visma, announced himself today with a terrific stage win up an incredibly steep stage finish, with Team Ineos's Tao Geoghegan Hart putting in a fine display to finish second.

But ultimately the real winner on Stage 15 was Primoz Roglic, who rode with imperious fashion to preserve his 2:25 lead at the top of GC. 

How the race unfolded

Another morning, another day pulling on the maillot rojo for Jumbo-Visma’s Primoz Roglic, who took a commanding 2:25 lead over Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde into Stage 15, which took riders deep into north-west Spain’s Asturias mountains. 

With four Category 1 climbs on the menu including a stinging 7.9km, 10% ascent to the finish in Santuario del Acebo, the 154.4km route out of Tineo promised to deliver some GC-hustling action.

Useful time bonuses were on offer, 10, 6 and 4 seconds at the finish, and with Valverde if not poised then at least in a decent position to unsettle Roglic, the main drive today would likely be for the three riders in Roglic and Valverde’s wake to attempt to rearrange their GC rankings. 

Only 32 seconds separated third place Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates, 3:01 behind Roglic) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar, 3:33) in fifth. Sandwiched in the middle was Astana’s Miguel Angel Lopez (3:18).

As such it was no surprise to see Movistar controlling the pace early doors, and by midway the peloton had let a three minute gap open up to the break.

With 40km to go the peloton sat over five minutes back, the chase group 1:35 behind a breakaway trio of Spanish rider Sergio Samitier (Euskadi-Murias), Ben O’Connor (Dimension Data) and Daniel Navarro (Katusha-Alpecin).

As was to be expected for a multiple-mountain stage finishing on a stiff ascent, Jumbo-Visma, Movistar, UAE and Astana where happy to keep the peloton steady, letting the head of the race disappear while ensuring they delivered their main men to the bottom of the final climb safely. 

Meanwhile, Samitier went clear of O’Connor and Navarro, who were caught by a 15-or-so strong chase group with Team Ineos’ Tao Geoghegan Hart and Vasil Kiryienka and Oscar Rodriguez (Euskadi-Murias) in tow.

Kiryienka joined Samitier, but as the first slopes of Puerto del Acebo to Santuario hit 25%, the Spaniard went clear. Could he somehow hold on for seven gruelling kilometres more?

No. Jumbo-Visma’s Sepp Kuss clearly had energy to spare, launching his own attack and leapfrogging Samitier, while further back the GC riders began to duke it out. Valverde launched an attack, and while the rest of the peloton stood still, Roglic reacted quickly and latched onto the Spaniard’s wheel, the pair going clear of their rivals but still three minutes off Kuss at the front. 

Quintana began to lose time further back, while Lopez and Pogacar and sixth placed in GC, Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), continued their chase of Roglic and Valverde, who were attacking the race and sharing duties.

Geoghegan Hart took flight, joining another escapee, Katusha-Alpecin rider Ruben Guerreiro, in an attempt to close the gap on Kuss, who was still riding with intent, slowly stretching his 30 second lead up the road.

Kuss eventually crossed the line with a commanding 39-second buffer over Geoghegan Hart - a huge Grand Tour first win for the American.

Roglic came home just ahead of Valverde, 2:13 down on Kuss, with Lopez coming in just ahead of Pogacar, meaning the Slovenian keeps his white jersey and podium position. If anyone lost out, it was Quintana, who come in 3:52 behind Kuss. 

It will take something monumental to wrestle Roglic's red jersey off him now.