Kaden Groves knows that the green jersey at the Vuelta a España is not always synonymous with sprinters like himself.
Sure, sprinters have won it before. Fabio Jakobsen in 2021, Mark Cavendish in 2010 and Andre Greipel 12 months before that. But dispersed between those names on the honour roll are the likes of former race champions Primož Roglič and Chris Froome, as well as Alejandro Valverde.
“The way I look at it, in the Vuelta, is it’s not the best sprinter’s jersey, it’s the points classification! It can be a very mixed bag wearing the green jersey,” Groves tells Cyclingnews on the Vuelta’s second rest day.
The Alpecin-Deceuninck recruit is mindful of Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) circling in second on the classification and is preparing to do more than win the two remaining bunch sprints this week to keep the Belgian wonderkid at bay and become the first Australian to claim the jersey.
Defending overall champion Evenepoel is focusing on stage wins, having lost significant time to the elite Jumbo-Visma trio of Sepp Kuss, Roglič and Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard, who are currently top three on general classification.
“We have to start capitalising on the intermediate sprints,” Groves said.
“Remco is now second on points, although I know he’s not even interested in the points. However, with his stage win, he gets the points anyway. So, we’ve got to continue chipping away at that.
“He’s in the polka dot jersey, and I know he’s not trying to come back in GC, I believe he’s just going to go for stage wins, but since the points system is so heavily weighted towards even the mountain-top finishes … I expect him to slowly keep chipping away and come closer to me.”
So far, however, in the two days of racing since the rest day, the gap to Evenepoel has remained and in fact even extended slightly – growing from 73 points to 76. Groves got out in the break to claim 20 intermediate sprint points on stage 16, while Evenepoel took a mid-race haul the next day, claiming 17 points when he took second in the intermediate sprint. That leaves Groves with a gap that is not insurmountable but is certainly large enough to bode well for the Australian, given there is just one mountain stage, one hilly day and two sprint stages to go.
Groves, in his second appearance at the Vuelta and career third Grand Tour, has made great strides and is physically up to the task with his young team that…