Two-time defending Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard caused drama in the cycling world on Tuesday when he attacked teammates Sepp Kuss and Primoz Roglic on stage 16 of the Vuelta a Espana.
For those of you who understood that entire sentence, congratulations, let’s be friends.
But for those who didn’t, let’s take a little crash course.
Vingegaard, a Dane, rides for Dutch team Jumbo-Visma. Jumbo-Visma is widely believed to be the best team in the world.
Jumbo rider Primoz Roglic won this year’s first grand tour, the Giro D’Italia. While Vingegaard won his second consecutive Tour de France, thanks in large part to American Sepp Kuss, who is considered perhaps the world’s best domestique (helper).
A domestique’s role is to help their team leader during a race, for example by setting the pace or creating a slipstream. Kuss often forgoes his own person goals to help those of the team.
Fast forward to this year’s Vuelta a Espana. It’s the final Grand Tour of the year and each of Vingegaard, Roglic and Kuss are in attendance for Jumbo-Visma, which is hoping to become the first team in cycling history to win all three Grand Tours in a season.
Roglic and Vingegaard entered the race as two of the top three favoites alongside defending champion Remco Evenepoel.
But it was Kuss, by virtue of a Stage 6 breakaway victory, who took a sizable early lead.
Many believed the favorites would chip away at that lead. But Kuss has continued to hold on and after a horrific day for Evenepoel on Friday, looked in prime position to win the race. An American has not won a Grand Tour since Chris Horner won the Vuelta a Espana in 2013.
Vingegaard made inroads on that lead with a victory atop the legendary Col de Tourmalet on the same stage where Evenepoel cracked. But it seemingly put Kuss in an exceeding strong position with teams Vingegaard and Roglic in second and third position entering the last week of the race.
The prevailing wisdom was that Vingegaard and Roglic would work to defend Kuss’ lead to repay the work Kuss had done for them in recent years.
That is, until Tuesday.
Vingegaard once again attacked Kuss, this time gaining over a minute on him and nearly a minute on Roglic en route to another stage victory.
He now sits just 29 seconds behind Kuss in second place and the team leadership the rest of the way is very much in doubt.
The move didn’t sit well with many.
— Benji Naesen (@BenjiNaesen) September 12, 2023
Among them was Roglic’s wife, Lora, who liked an Instagram post criticizing Vingegaard’s decision to attack his teammates.
There are still five stages remaining in the race, including a climb up the mythical Angliru on Wednesday. But however it shakes out, things are getting spicy in the cycling world.