Vingegaard Climbs to Epic Victory on Tourmalet in Stage 13 of Vuelta
Stage 13 of La Vuelta a Espana 2023 was a concentrated 134.7-kilometer mountain effort.
The scene was set for an epic battle in the French mountains as the Vuelta a Espana peloton travelled into France to test the riders in legendary French cycling territory where legends have been made.
La Vuelta race organizer Unipublic had designed the stage in cooperation with its French owner A.S.O. and with French authorities to allow for a route that included the legendary Col d’Aubisque (Hors Categorie/Outside Category; 16.6 km; 7% average gradient) and not least the Col du Tourmalet (Hors Categorie/Outside Category; 18.8 km; 7.4% average gradient).
HOW THE STAGE UNFOLDED
The stage was initiated with a partial climb of the Puerto de Portalet (category 3) to the French border and then included a descent into France. Frenchman Romain Bardet (Team DSM-Firmenich) wanted to honor La Vuelta and his home country, so he was first across the top of the Puerto de Portalet.
Bardet was caught on the descent, however, and he was replaced at the front by a three-man breakaway group that featured Jonathan Castroviejo (Ineos-Grenadiers), Edward Theuns (Lidl-Trek), and Lotto-Dstny’s Eduardo Sepulveda who was looking to retake the lead in the Best Climber Competition and take back the climber jersey from Spaniard Jesus Herrada (Cofidis).
Later, the trio was joined by Imanol Erviti (Movistar Team), Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-EasyPost), and Edward Planckaert (Alpecin-Deceuninck) as the riders had reached the Col d’Aubisque.
The front men were caught by the chasing peloton that was racing at a fast pace to make the stage as challenging as possible for the competitors. Not least the Jumbo-Visma team was active at the front while several attempts were made by other riders to break free from the grip of the favorites and set out on a courageous breakaway adventure.
Lotto-Dstny’s Andreas Kron managed to escape from the chasing peloton, but only gained a small advantage of few seconds. He was joined by Kenny Elissonde (Lidl-Trek) and Cristian Rodriguez (Arkea-Samsic).
While Jumbo-Visma was setting a fast pace in the peloton, Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) and Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) were dropped from the peloton – this early in a likely decisive mountain stage, which has been described by many as the Queen Stage of this year’s La Vuelta a España 2023. Approximately forty other riders were joining Almeida and Evenepoel who were likely suffering from illness.
Almeida later rediscovered his energy and cycling skills and fought hard with a teammate to rejoin the favorites further up the French roads. Evenepoel, however, looked lost on the Col d’Aubisque climb and the descent that followed. He was now 01:50 minutes behind the front favorites and was supported by teammates who likely had to listen to his many complaints if he was in the same mood as during stages one and two.
The riders were now approaching the Col de Spandelles (Category 1; 10.4 km; 8.1% average incline), which the race organizers had added to the route mix to make the racing even more intense and challenging for the riders. The final Grand Tour of the 2023 season should not succumb to the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.
Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) were trying their luck on the descent shortly before the start of the Spandelles climb. Bardet tried to catch up. Later, they were all caught by the chasers.
Welshman Geraint Thomas (Ineos-Grenadiers) was dropped from the favorites group along with other big names.
Vingegaard attacked solo on the Col de Spandelles and was joined by Landa. It was now up to UAE Team Emirates to close the gap. But sixty kilometers remained. They were joined by Juan Ayuso, Marc Soler, Primoz Roglic, Wilco Kelderman, Sepp Kuss, Lenny Martinez, Eric Mas, and others. Almeida was still chasing – but he was now alone and still had a deficit of more than one minute.
Four kilometers from the top of the Col de Spandelles Martinez was suffering and proved unable to keep up with the favorites. Though on home soil, the young Frenchman was not having his best day in the saddle.
Michael Storer (Groupama-FDJ) attacked solo with approximately one kilometer remaining of the climb. He was chasing points for the best climber classification. Bonus seconds were also awarded on the top that could be used for the general classification. Vingegaard and Ayuso secured the bonus seconds that remained after Storer.
The riders were now descending from the Col de Spandelles. It was on the descent from the Col de Spandelles that Vingegaard waited for Tedej Pogacar after he crashed in last year’s Tour de France.
Martinez fought hard on the descent and managed to close the gap to the favorites in front.
The remains of the peloton – headed by Jumbo-Visma – were now approaching the final climb of today’s stage 13: the Col du Tourmalet.
Robert Gesink led the front group onto the Col du Tourmalet climb. Wilco Kelderman was next in the line of Jumbo-Visma men to set the agenda before the expected battle and fireworks from the main favorites.
EF Education-EasyPost’s Hugh Carthy was suffering on the Tourmalet and was dropped. Lidl-Trek’s Juan Pedro Lopez was having a hard time too but fought well. Ten kilometers now remained of today’s stage.
With eight kilometers left Keldermann ran out of steam and Vingegaard launched an attack – and one more. He waited but then attacked again. Enric Mas tried to counter and almost caught Vingegaard.
Seven kilometers from the finish line Vingegaard was solo in front while a small group of chasers was forming a few seconds behind him.
Mas launched a counterattack approximately 5.5 kilometers from the top. Kuss joined the ride as passenger. Kuss did not want to help Mas catch Kuss’ Jumbo-Visma teammate Vingegaard, so he remained on Mas’ wheel.
Further behind Ayuso, Roglic, Landa and Bora-Hansgrohe’s Cian Uijtdebroeks were chasing.
Vingegaard now had a 36 second lead.
Kuss accelerated to try to bridge solo to Vingegaard, but he was caught by Mas. Kuss and Mas were then caught by the chasing few.
Vingegaard increased his lead to almost a minute – but 1.6 kilometers still remained.
Vingegaard crossed the finish line solo in 03:51:10 as winner of stage 13 of Vuelta a Espana 2023. American teammate Kuss was next across the line, 30 seconds after the winner. Roglic followed 33 seconds behind Vingegaard to complete the stage podium. The top three featured only Jumbo-Visma riders.
Ayuso finished fourth (+38), Uijtdebroeks fifth. Mas was sixth, Landa seventh, and Soler tenth.
In the general classification Kuss remains Vuelta a Espana leader in 46:42:54. Roglic is second, 01:37 minutes behind the American, while Denmark’s Tour de France Champion Vingegaard is third, 01:44 minutes behind. Ayuso is fourth, Mas fifth, and Soler sixth.
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