SIGN UP for our newsletter ✉️ :

Get the latest stories delivered straight to you

Kuss close to Vuelta victory as Evenepoel wins stage 18


Belgium's Remco Evenepoel has claimed his third victory in this year's Vuelta a Espana with a solo attack on a mountainous stage 18, while Jumbo-Visma's Sepp Kuss moved a step closer to winning his first Grand Tour.

Evenepoel blasted out of a breakaway group on the first of two climbs of the Puerto de La Cruz de Linares late in the 179km ride from Pola de Allande and proved in a class of his own on Thursday's stage.

Wearing the King of the Mountains jersey as best climber, Evenepoel, who's out of the running to successfully defend his overall title, also moved just 36 points behind Australian green jersey holder Kaden Groves in the points classification race.

The peloton, featuring the Jumbo-Visma trio of Kuss, Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic finished nearly 10 minutes back, with Kuss emerging with his leader's red jersey in tact after surviving the last huge day in the mountains.

American Kuss, who was shepherded through the dramatic Asturian landscape by his illustrious teammates, even extended his lead over Tour de France champion Vingegaard to 17 seconds and is just over one minute ahead of Giro d'Italia champion Roglic.

With a flat stage on Friday followed by a demanding penultimate stage on Saturday, Kuss is now favourite to retain the red jersey all the way to Madrid, helped by his superstar colleagues.

With the trio well clear of field, the dominant Dutch outfit look certain to become the first team to win all three Grand Tours in the same season, with Roglic having won the Giro d'Italia and Vingegaard the Tour de France.

Evenepoel's hopes of fighting the Jumbo-Visma riders for the overall title evaporated on stage 13 when he was dropped on the Col d'Aubisque and lost 27 minutes.

But the 2022 champion has bounced back in stunning fashion by winning stage 14 and now soloing to victory on Thursday for what was the 50th professional win of his career.

He finished four minutes and 44 seconds ahead of Italy's Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) and 5:10 ahead of Denmark's Andreas Kron (Lotto Dstny) who came third.

"It was a super good opportunity to take the points for my (King of the Mountains) jersey - I took all the points - and my third stage win is amazing to end the Vuelta with."

Kuss had looked vulnerable to attacks from his own teammates in the past week but the American now has Vingegaard and Roglic effectively working for him with both of them appearing more than happy to do so.

Provided he avoids any mishaps on Friday and Saturday, Kuss will be a popular champion in Madrid.

Vingegaard, who has been helped often by Kuss, warned that there is still a tough stage on Saturday and that the team needed to keep fighting.

"It's sure nice to be able to pay Sepp back," the Dane said. "He has done so much for me and Primoz. Saturday is a tough, long stage though so we have to be careful."