The American Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) won a close sixth stage of the Tour of Spain, in a magnificent day for the Jumbo Visma team, since the defending champion, Remco Evenepoel, ceded the red jersey to the French Lenny Martínez (Groupama -FDJ).

Kuss attacked from a large lead group on the brutal climb to the Javalambre Astrophysical Observatory, at the end of the 183km from La Vall d’Aixo, and claimed victory. Frenchman Martínez finished second, 26 seconds behind Kuss and moved into the lead, with his compatriot Romain Bardet (Team DSM-Firmenich) finishing third.

From the first bars the race was a rosary of attacks for trying to enter the good cut of the day, with tremendous tension for those typical mountain roads, narrow, twisty, without a flat meter. Among so many nerves, he abandoned another illustrious figure in the figure of Jay Vine, who fell to the ground, apparently fracturing his arm and leaving one of his main bulwarks without Ayuso and Almeida’s UAE Team Emirates.

Finally, a gigantic cut of no less than 40 riders was consolidated, where Jumbo-Visma managed to filter half the team with the presence of Sepp Kuss, Jan Tratnik, Attila Valter and Dylan van Baarle. This leading group included other cyclists of recognized quality such as Marc Soler, Santiago Buitrago, Wout Poels, Mikel Landa, Lennard Kamna, Hugh Carthy, Rui Costa, Oier Lazkano or Romain Bardet.

Virtually representation of all the teams except INEOS-Grenadiers that was in the back with a real brown. The whole stage ahead and no one willing to work to control the leak. INEOS played poker and the break began to take advantage, which threatened to turn it into the typical bottle break that ends with the general in the hands of the most unexpected cyclist.

Jumbo Visma race favorites Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard seized the opportunity to attack Evenepoel up the steep final climbs, finishing 30 seconds ahead of the Belgian, who had to do his best to limit his losses. Belgian Evenepoel (Soudal Quick Step) had said he wouldn’t mind giving up the red jersey on the stage for tactical reasons, but what he didn’t want was to lose significant time on his main overall rivals.

The race was divided into the 11.9km climb to the finish, with gradients of up to 16%, but Kuss charged towards the top to clinch a victory that took the lead from his Jumbo teammates Visma Roglic and Vingegaard, they finished to almost three minutes.

“It’s been an incredibly tough stage. We wanted to try to get into the break just to test the Quick Step and we knew it would be a difficult day to control. All day I felt super, super good, just thinking about when to go and when to try make a difference,” Kuss said.

Although the 28-year-old Kuss ostensibly works for his two illustrious teammates, he now sits in second overall, just eight seconds behind Martinez, though he downplayed their prospects of challenging them for the final win. Spaniard Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) is third overall, 51 seconds off the leader, after finishing fifth on the stage.

Evenepoel has dropped to ninth, two minutes and 47 seconds behind Martínez, but more worryingly, he now leads Tour de France winner Vingegaard by just five seconds and Giro d’Italia winner Roglic in 11 seconds.

“If it’s been a bad day, that’s okay,” Evenepoel said. “I started to feel a little heavy on the legs, but let’s hope this is one of the worst days for me. The good thing is that I was able to accelerate in the last two kilometers and still had something left in the last 500 meters.”

The seventh stage on Friday will be for the sprinters, with a flat 201km course from Utiel, passing through Valencia, before descending the coast to Oliva.

Classification Stage 6

  1. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) 4h27’29’’
  2. Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) +26’’
  3. Romain Bardet (DSM-Firmenich) +31’’
  4. Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) +46’’
  5. Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) m.t.
  6. Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious) +1’03’’
  7. Einer Rubio (Movistar Team) +1’05’’
  8. Cristian Rodríguez (Arkéa Samsic) +1’12’’
  9. Steff Cras (TotalEnergies) m.t.
  10. Jefferson Cepeda (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) +1’26’’

General ranking

  1. Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) 21h40’35’’
  2. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) +08’’
  3. Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) +51’’
  4. Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious) +01’41’’
  5. Steff Cras (TotalEnergies) +01’48’’
  6. Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) +01’58’’
  7. Jefferson Cepeda (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) +02’06’’
  8. David de la Cruz (Astana) +02’23’’
  9. Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) +02’47’’
  10. Enric Mas (Movistar Team) +02’50’’