A daring gamble by Kaden Groves paid off handsomely in the Vuelta a España’s final stage as the Australian concluded a powerful late break alongside Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) and Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) through the streets of Madrid by claiming his third victory of the race and the points jersey with it.
The pre-race favourite for the final stage, no one could have predicted such a dramatic final day of racing in the Vuelta as points jersey holder Groves and king of the mountain leader Evenepoel joined forces with Ganna and Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) in part of a star-studded break.
The bunch caught the break just as they approached the finish line for one last time. But even as Evenepoel led out the final sprint, Groves blasted past to clinch his third victory ahead of Ganna and double Giro d’Italia bunch sprint stage winner Nico Denz (Bora-hansgrohe).
The Alpecin–Deceuninck rider admitted that it had been a tough finale, but one which led to a stunning success and the points jersey too.
“The bunch ended up closing us quite quickly when we stopped working together in the final kilometre so we had a little bit of stress closing in on the sprint,” Groves recounted afterwards.
“So I had to keep the pace on a little bit, until Evenepoel went at 500 metres to go. But I got past him and luckily enough I had enough to get it in the sprint.”
Groves said that getting away in a break and then going for the sprint had been unprecedented for him as a pro racer. But he knew that when Evenepoel had made his move with around 40 kilometres to go, he had to join him because otherwise his hold on the points jersey was at risk.
“We’d done the maths and we knew that after I’d won the intermediate sprint, if Remco won the stage, I would have had to run seventh at least. So I had to ride more defensively and follow Remco, and luckily enough I had enough to contribute a little and get in the sprint. But it’s certainly a first for me.”
The 24-year-old said that of his 16 wins to date as a pro, his third victory in the Vuelta ranked as one of the most special.
“For sure it’s up there, today we really wanted to keep the points jersey and I didn’t have a clear lead. Remco could have won the jersey if he’d got the stage so it means a lot to defend it. But it’s also my third Vuelta victory of this Grand Tour, that’s really the cherry on the top.”
“I’ve also twice been second in this race,” – on stage 2 and stage 12, as well as having a spectacular late crash on stage 19 – “so the team really wanted to win today. It wasn’t the scenario we expected. But I’m super proud of the team for really committing this entire Tour, and this victory is for them as well.”
The final prize is not only a third stage win, but the first Grand Tour points jersey of his career in the Vuelta. Not only that, Groves took the ranking in what is arguably – as Groves pointed out – the toughest of the three Grand Tours for a sprinter to succeed. All of which, at 24, bodes very well for the Australian’s future.
“It’s super special, I’m told I’m the first Australian to win green here in the Vuelta, and that also means a lot to myself, it shows the consistency we’ve displayed through this race, as well as the fact we won this jersey against a points system where it’s not super easy to take.”
“We’ve had to commit to a lot of intermediate sprints this race and the mountains also have a lot of points. So it really shows that my team did a lot of work to close breakaways and also I had to go in the break myself on stage 16. Without those points, this jersey would have been impossible.”