MADRID, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- Sepp Kuss of Jumbo Visma was confirmed as the winner of the 2023 Vuelta a Espana cycle race on Sunday, following the short 105-kilometer final stage into Madrid.
The 29-year-old American, residing in Andorra, emerged as the surprise victor of the race. Until his triumph in the race's sixth stage, he was primarily viewed as a 'super-domestique' - a rider dedicated to assisting Jumbo Visma leaders, Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic.
Kuss is the only cyclist in the Vuelta who also participated in this year's Giro de Italia, aiding Roglic to clinch the title, and the Tour de France, supporting Vingegaard in mountainous terrains. His role was anticipated to be similar in Spain.
However, after donning the leader's red jersey post stage eight and maintaining it during the 10th stage's time trial, speculations about his potential to secure the Vuelta began.
On the challenging slopes of the Altu de L'Angliru during stage 17, when Vingegaard and Roglic surged ahead, Kuss displayed resilience, trailing by a mere 19 seconds and preserving his overall lead.
This performance shifted Jumbo's strategy, with Vingegaard and Roglic, previously criticized for sidelining Kuss, rallying to ensure his victory. The trio celebrated their success on Saturday, crossing the finish line arm in arm.
Other competitors, like Ineos-Grenadiers' Geraint Thomas, believed Kuss would be a crowd favorite. Fans along Spain's routes cheered for Kuss, known for his selfless dedication to teammates. This overwhelming support led Kuss to remark that he felt "more Spanish" with each passing day.
The race underscored Jumbo Visma's prowess, concluding the Vuelta with Kuss, Vingegaard, and Roglic on the podium, marking three Grand Tour victories in 2023.
Sunday's concluding stage saw Kaden Groves of Alpecin-Deceuninck clinch his third win, solidifying his supremacy in the points competition as the top sprinter. Filippo Ganna of Ineos Grenadiers secured second place, followed by Nico Denz of Bora-hansgrohe.
While Groves showcased his sprinting dominance, the day and the race undeniably belonged to Kuss, one of the most cherished Vuelta victors in history.