Sepp Kuss knows Andorra well, because he is one of the fifty runners who reside in the Principality during the cycling season. Tonight he sleeps at home. That is why I had the stage marked in the road book, like so many others. The mountains are the natural habitat of this brave 26-year-old climber, a native of Colorado, initiated on the mountain bike and faithful squire of Primoz Roglic in other settings. Already released from attending the Slovenian, although always with an eye back in case Jonas Vingegaard was looking for the feat in the group of roosters, Kuss won the first stage of the Pyrenees, which is also his first victory in the Tour de France, although not in a big round: in the 2019 Vuelta a España he won in the Sanctuary of the Virgen del Acebo. Only the American prevented this Sunday an unprecedented feat, the triumph of the fireproof 41-year-old champion: Alejandro Valverde.
Tour leaks are always delicatessen, especially on mountain days. Big round winners: Valverde, Nibali, Nairo Quintana … From great classics: Van Aert, Alaphilippe, Poels, Dan Martin… From stages to laps: Ion Izagirre, De Gendt, Gaudu, Kuss, Woods, Matthews, Elissonde… Tour podiums: Kruijswijk… Cyclists for all tastes on the hunt for different objectives: the stage, the Mountain, assisting a leader … And some of them, a little for everything. That was the case with Kuss, who could either fight for the stage, than stand up to catapult a possible Vingegaard attack. The first thing happened.
Kuss attacked in the last port and Alejandro Valverde endured, in the first instance, at his wheel, but the American is an explosive climber, too much dynamite for the veteran and more and more Murcian diesel. Valverde gave ground and left the chase for relegation. A score of seconds separated him from glory. There he launched himself for the feat, while the national coach, Pascual Momparler, crossed his fingers on each line. This Monday will give the list for the Tokyo Olympics and grandfather Alejandro will be their leader. It could not be. Valverde entered second, 23 “behind Kuss, which also has its merit when your identity card exceeds quarantine.
Behind, the almighty Ineos had been able to uncover Tadej Pogacar’s main weakness, that UAE team that stopped covering its leader in the third of the four ports of the day, the demanding Envalira. The British team isolated the yellow jersey in the historic Andorran climb with a strong rhythm that he did not want to slow down, so he stopped his two escapees, Castroviejo and Van Baarle, to give more wax. There was a race. The Ineos arrived on foot from the last ascent with five runners. The attack was announced. The question was whether Pogacar, who had suffered Wednesday at Mont Ventoux, could withstand the onslaught.
Beixalis, the battlefieldIt is a hard but short pass: 6.5 kilometers at 8.5%. A more appropriate profile for Pogacar, who endured the shooting of his opponents with solvency. First, from Carapaz. Then from Vingegaard. Then, by Rigoberto Urán. Later, again from Carapaz. It cannot be said that they did not try to take him off, but the Slovenian also knows how to defend himself without equipment, that is his greatness and his salvation. Enric Mas, by the way, kept the type well in all the fights, this time yes, and even tensed the race in the final descent. The performance of the Balearic always rises with the passing of the days. The bid for the podium is on fire.
The escape had also been enlivened by another fierce fight, as fierce as the one on the podium, for another position on the Champs Elysees: the Prize of the Mountain. Nairo Quintana had left with the aim of recovering the polka dot jersey that Michael Woods snatched from him, but he ran into two other strong candidates: Wout van Aert and the new leader, Wout Poels.. The three rivals, who had a great time in the first two ports, are faster than the Colombian, who will have to invent other strategies if he wants to aspire to the pledge, as he did in Envalira, where he attacked and crowned alone. Then he tried it in Baixalis, but it didn’t give him that much anymore. The mountains, which once belonged to Nairo, are now for Kuss … And for Pogacar, of course.
Nimes – Carcassonne
Fri. July 09
Carcassonne – Quillan
Céret – Andorra la Vella
Sun July 11
The Pas de la Casa – Saint-Gaudens
Tue July 13
Muret – Saint-Lary-Soulan Col du Portet
Wed. July 14