[Press Release]: First bunch sprint of La Vuelta 23, first success for the Australian rocket Kaden Groves! The sprinter from Alpecin-Deceuninck mastered a tricky finale in the streets of Tarragona to take his third Grand Tour win, the second in La Vuelta, and his fourth success in the area, after three stage wins in the Volta a Catalunya. Juan Sebastian Molano (UAE Team Emirates) tried to anticipate the uphill sprint but Groves followed him and passed him on the line. Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) retained La Roja he claimed in Andorra. Eduardo Sepulveda (Lotto Dstny) takes the polka dots and makes history as the first Argentinian leader of a Grand Tour standing.
On the day after the first mountain showdown of La Vuelta 23, the peloton head back to Catalunya and to the seaside, with 184.6km of racing to Tarragona.
Three riders attack as soon as the race begins. Eduardo Sepulveda (Lotto Dstny), on the hunt for KOM points to rightfully claim the polka-dot jersey he wears on loan from Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step), is joined at the front by Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH) and David Gonzalez (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA).
Sepulveda makes history:
The three leaders rapidly open a gap of 2’20’’. But Kaden Groves’ Alpecin-Deceuninck and Alberto Dainese’s DSM-Firmenich are also quick to react in order to control the gap at around 2 minutes.
The intensity picks up in the peloton ahead of the two climbs of the day, the cat-3 ascents up Alto de Belltall (to be summited with 53.8km to go) and Coll de Villa (30.6km). The gap is down to 1’20’’ as the bottom of the first climb. Sepulveda takes 3 KOM points at the summit.
The gap drops down to 30’’ on the following climb, but Sepulveda still takes 3 more KOM points to all but seal the polka-dot jersey. He makes history as the first Argentinian to ever lead a standing in a Grand Tour (his compatriot Bruno Sivilotti won stage 1a of La Vuelta in 1966, but he was riding as an Italian at the time, before he became Argentinian).
Coquard goes down, Groves powers up:
Sepulveda is caught with 22km to go, while Okamika and Gonzalez keep pushing with a minimal gap. They’re caught 19km away from the finish. The tension rises in the bunch and a dozen of riders hit the deck inside the last 5 kilometres, including Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) and Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious).
Marijn van den Berg (EF Education-EasyPost) misses a turn as he tries to anticipate the uphill finish. Juan Sebastian Molano (UAE Team Emirates) opens up from far away but nobody can resist Kaden Groves.