XORRET DEL CATÍ, Spain (AP) — Primoz Roglic beat Remco Evenepoel to win the mountainous eighth stage of the Spanish Vuelta, one of the leading cycling races in the world, while Jumbo-Visma teammate Sepp Kuss took the lead of the three-week race on Saturday.
Kuss, who grew up riding his bicycle in Durango, graduated from CU Boulder in 2017.
In a duel of the last two Vuelta winners, Roglic bettered Evenepoel in a sprint to the finish line after a climb up the category-one Xorret del Catí. It was Roglic’s first stage win of this edition and his 11th career stage win at the Vuelta.
Roglic won three Vueltas in a row from 2019-21. The Slovenian is aiming to recover his title after he crashed and withdrew from last year’s race won by Evenepoel.
“I’m thrilled with this,” Roglic said. “It’s always a bit of a gamble in a sprint like this, but it worked out well.”
Kuss became the first American rider to lead one of the three Grand Tours since Chris Horner won the 2013 Vuelta, the race organizers said.
“I knew there was a chance I could take the jersey depending on how the stage went,” Kuss said. “It wasn’t until I crossed the line that I realized I had done it.
“I will try and enjoy it because it’s not something I will experience very often.”
Lenny Martínez lost the red jersey he had worn for two stages after the Frenchman cracked on the day’s fifth and final ascent after a 165-kilometer (102-mile) ride from Dénia in eastern Spain.
Evenepoel’s Soudal-Quickstep team reeled in a breakaway group before a small group of eight riders, including two-time Tour winner Jonas Vinegaard of Jumbo-Visma, battled for the win.
Evenepoel said that he incorrectly thought there was another rider ahead of his group that had was set to win the stage when he and Roglic sprinted.
“I really believe I could have won, but the thing is I thought there was still a rider in front,” the Belgian said. “It was a communication problem and it’s frustrating, but it is as it is.”
Marc Soler was second overall, 43 seconds behind Kuss. Martinez was third at 1:00 back. Evenepoel was sixth at 2:31 behind, and Roglic, Vinegaard, Enric Mas, and Juan Ayuso were all within 21 seconds of the defending champion.
Sunday’s Stage 9 is a hilly 184.5-kilometer (115-mile) ride from Cartagena to Collado de la Cruz de Caravaca.
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