Jumbo-Visma have come under fire from fans as well as current and former pro riders for Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič, attacking race leader and teammate Sepp Kuss on the Angliru on stage 17, but presented a more united front on the final mountain stage.
Vingegaard worked for Kuss for the majority of the final climb to La Cruz de Linares. After Kuss followed an acceleration by Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) in the final kilometre of the climb and went to the front, Vingegaard called him off over the radio.
After Kuss sat up, Vingegaard came to the front to set tempo for the American until Ayuso attacked again with 500m to go.
Kuss was easily able to match the two riders and follow them in the sprint to the line. Roglič had to work to get onto Kuss’ wheel before the line and finished on the same time. Vingegaard did not follow the sprint and conceded nine seconds to his teammate.
The trio remain in the top three overall, with Kuss now 17 seconds ahead of the Tour de France winner and Roglič third at 1:08.
Both riders proclaimed they would support Kuss.
“Like I’ve said multiple times, he’s the first guy,” Roglič said of Kuss before responding, “Definitely, I would say it that way” when asked if it was difficult not to be racing for the win.
“I have my own thoughts about it, but I will try to do it to stay the way it is.”
Vingegaard was more definite in his pledge to help Kuss when asked.
“For sure, it’s nice to be able to pay him back and to do something for Sepp – he’s done so much for me and for Primož, so obviously, I like to pay him back today and also on Saturday.”
With a 208km long hilly penultimate stage on Saturday, there will undoubtedly be attacks to try and break Jumbo-Visma’s stranglehold on the Vuelta.
“There’s obviously a really hard stage Saturday. So there we have to be careful as well. So we have to keep fighting until Madrid,” Vingegaard said.