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Vuelta a España Vuelta a España 2023, stage 18: Pola de Allande - La Cruz de Linares, 178.9k

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I am enough of a student of discourse that I cannot help but notice the striking use across social media, including this forum, of the concept of "gift" and "gifting" with regard to this Vuelta. The issue is, in essence, what defines or determines "a gift" in WT cycling?

A number of posts argue that GC Kiss is "not the strongest" in the bunch. Setting aside the lack of empirical evidence in this race (team orders, tactical considerations, etc have muddied those waters), since when has "the strongest" automatically won bike races? All serious fans know the answer is, Never. So a Kiss victory on that score alone doesn't meet the standard understanding of "gift."

Now, let's consider the help he has undoubtedly gotten from his two superstar teammates (Full disclosure, I am a big Rogla fan and wanted him to get Vuelta #4).Again, serious fans will have lost count of the times a "leader" has been rescued by the selfless actions of the team. I seem to recall Roglic being saved by WvA in a certain prominent stage race not that long ago. Was that a "gift'?

What about 'team orders' to protect a given rider's leading position/jersey? For example, a "stronger" rider is sent up the road for mountain or sprint points in order to keep them from other squads and protect his teammate's standing in the green or polkadot competition? Is that a gift?

I am not suggesting that this Vuelta has not been a bit of a clusterf%$#, with the competitive racing often overshadowed by intramural rivalries, poor team management, including squad selection and dynamics, and opposition too weak to break the Jumbo stranglehold -- on top of the usual Vuelta chaos.

But to lay it off as unseemly '"gifting" just because many of us are unhappy with the last few days of racing seems shortsighted. In other words, much of what has happened in this Vuelta is not that unusual in cycling. What is rare, and I hope unlikely to be repeated, is the concentrated perfect storm of the contradictions inherent to the individual-in-a-team sport that is modern cycling.
 
And why not? Going into this Vuelta, Vinge was on top of the pecking order because TDF > Giro. But if Rog gets two GTs in a year, then arguably that is on par with a TDF --- it's certainly rarer.

Kuss getting a freak Vuelta victory is enough to keep Vinge on top of the hierarchy; plus we all saw that Vinge was perfectly capable of the Tour/Vuelta double, should he ever need to convince team management to back him for it in the future.
For Kuss and Jumbo this is all win, win, win,win..could even be a few more. 1st they get great results for team and individuals. And the back stories are plentiful and an emotional roll coaster that fans get fed and feedback daily for 3 weeks.. You got the established champions helping the helper, you have previous winner and rainbow jersey wearer all over the place.. Dismissal of Kuss and a guy working at the coat check, you have a kids birthday, Sepp birthday, you have obvious tension and confusion about who on the team is the leader, and if so leader for today? Temporary leadership, leader until the race is over? From now on..oh yeah our teammate and his family are in a car accident, heart attack, coma, and unknown status.. So if Jumbo stays cool and everyone hugs at the end, cool. Because of Sepp's age this Vuelta boosts his marketability and showcased 2 things ability and personal composure.. Lots of other teams would be happy to have him..Sponsors got the exposure slash of a lifetime
 
Interesing read. I think I kind of understand you now. And I bet he literally used the term "kill the race" in that interview. I can see how, especially when it's phrased like that, it might trigger you. Hell, it triggers me a bit as well. But when you think about it, isn't chasing down attacks or trying to prevent them just the job of any superdomestique? Now if a GC contender were to use these words, I'd insta-hate him as well, but a domestique? Nah.

Anyway, that was an interesting post that got me thinking, so thanks.

Yes. And that's all there is to it, really.
 
Libertine's hatred has been on suspiciously solid form this third week. One would have expected some decline as the Vuelta dragged on but something magical must have happened on that 2nd rest day, because this is a special performance. Redhead Dane needs to start a testing programme.
It's the hope that kills you. I was afforded the chance to hope that the team would actually led the road decide, which was the only way we were going to get any action whatsoever this week. And then said action showed that Sepp was the weakest of the three.

Then all my hopes and dreams were quashed because a bunch of people like Adam Blythe and Geraint Thomas and people who follow JV on Twitter got upset that magic nanny might lose, called Jumbo-Visma some mean words on Twitter, and their PR department got scared and told them to let Sepp win because people want him beatified because he lets other people sit in the front seat of the team car (no seriously, we have people claiming he's "too good for this world" because of that).

By which time it was already too late to not make it look absolutely farcical and artificial when they did just that, which just made it look worse, especially Jonas dropping off the back to make sure a stage win bonus wouldn't put him in front anymore. It's like, they'd reached the stage where they'd demonstrated clearly on the road that Sepp is the weakest of the three on the road at present (which is no shame, the others are multiple GT winners and he's in his third GT of the season) couldn't even hide the blatant rigging of the outcome, so it just made an absolute mockery of the race.
 
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Well, yes, because this is an instance where Jumbo can't do good no matter who won. You cannot please everyone, and whatever the outcome will have some people riled up.
Yeah, I'm mostly annoyed by the competition.

I think it helps a lot that Kuss is actually the third strongest rider in the race, and that if he could have ridden to defend himself against the other two Jumbo captains, it wouldn't have been easy to overtake him after the ITT.

He would have lost less on Tourmalet to Vingegaard in that case, and especially Bejes. He defended himself extremely well on Angliru, so it would have to be an attack before the last climb either yesterday or Sunday to dethrone him.

It's the hope that kills you. I was afforded the chance to hope that the team would actually led the road decide, which was the only way we were going to get any action whatsoever this week. And then said action showed that Sepp was the weakest of the three.
Had it been up to the road to decide, the other two Jumbo riders would have chased Vingegaard on both Tourmalet and Bejes. And Larrau would have seen action.

And Kuss had a buffer, he didn't need to be the strongest, only strong enough.
 
It's the hope that kills you. I was afforded the chance to hope that the team would actually led the road decide, which was the only way we were going to get any action whatsoever this week. And then said action showed that Sepp was the weakest of the three.

Then all my hopes and dreams were quashed because a bunch of people like Adam Blythe and Geraint Thomas and people who follow JV on Twitter got upset that magic nanny might lose, called Jumbo-Visma some mean words on Twitter, and their PR department got scared and told them to let Sepp win because people want him beatified because he lets other people sit in the front seat of the team car (no seriously, we have people claiming he's "too good for this world" because of that).

By which time it was already too late to not make it look absolutely farcical and artificial when they did just that, which just made it look worse, especially Jonas dropping off the back to make sure a stage win bonus wouldn't put him in front anymore. It's like, they'd reached the stage where they'd demonstrated clearly on the road that Sepp is the weakest of the three on the road at present (which is no shame, the others are multiple GT winners and he's in his third GT of the season) couldn't even hide the blatant rigging of the outcome, so it just made an absolute mockery of the race.
Sepp knows he isn't the strongest. Jonas and Rogla could drop him at anytime. So Sepp knows he the other two, and Team, give him the Vuelta.
 
Yeah, I'm mostly annoyed by the competition.

I think it helps a lot that Kuss is actually the third strongest rider in the race, and that if he could have ridden to defend himself against the other two Jumbo captains, it wouldn't have been easy to overtake him after the ITT.

He would have lost less on Tourmalet to Vingegaard in that case, and especially Bejes. He defended himself extremely well on Angliru, so it would have to be an attack before the last climb either yesterday or Sunday to dethrone him.


Had it been up to the road to decide, the other two Jumbo riders would have chased Vingegaard on both Tourmalet and Bejes. And Larrau would have seen action.

And Kuss had a buffer, he didn't need to be the strongest, only strong enough.
Vinge and Rogla gave Sepp his buffer.
 
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Just watched late

I'm happy if Kuss win, not really happy happy, because about 166 outcomes would probably have made me happier. And it has nothing to do with his nationality or anyone's. I don't care about nationality, I don't care how he won it, not anymore, not that any other way of Jumbo win after Tourmalet would have been less numbing for me.

I prefer an emotionally more involving but less complicated race than this if I could chose. Please cycling be easy on me, this is too little and too much at once.

And I didn't know what Bobcat Goldthwait did in the 80s and 90s, when I was old enough to know famous people. Ban me too Samu.
 
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Had it been up to the road to decide, the other two Jumbo riders would have chased Vingegaard on both Tourmalet and Bejes. And Larrau would have seen action.

And Kuss had a buffer, he didn't need to be the strongest, only strong enough.
That's as may be, but it's also testament to how badly the team has played it, I mean not badly in respect of them still doing the 1-2-3, but it's classic SD Worx style, not being the smartest but by being so comically overpowered that they still dominate. The Jumbo PR department has been where all the interest has been in this race, realistically. Before Angliru there's always the danger of Kuss dropping because it's the third straight GT, he's always historically had a bad day and he isn't used to going for GC, so it makes sense to build a buffer for the more proven commodities too.

Then they seemed like they'd let the road decide once the 1-2-3 was on, only to be cowed into submission by asocial media being upset that their boy would lose out because once they were happy to let them race, the buffer he needed to be a Giovannetti or Mauri was no longer there because he wasn't strong enough against his teammates. So the road was no longer allowed to decide, but because the cat was out of the bag, they couldn't just ride in formation without it looking artificial as hell.

If they'd rode up Angliru in formation like Glassdrive on Senhora da Graça it would have been very disappointing and anticlimactic, but it would've just been, oh, that's how they're playing it. But because they let them race on Angliru and then changed their mind so blatantly (and it looked so false and pre-meditated as a result), everybody looks weak, which is not a word you'd usually associate with a team locking out the podium of the third biggest stage race of the year.

Kuss is made to look weak because he was shown up on Angliru to be the weakest of the three and that at least one of his teammates could take that jersey any time he liked, so he gets his career's crowning glory to be a charity case; Vingegaard and Roglič both look weak because they backed down in the face of being told to let their teammate win (for all Bruyneel's posturing, I laugh at the idea of him telling Armstrong to do that, and even more at the idea of Lance being submissive enough to do so); and the team look weak two-fold: first for not being able to control their team leaders if the story that they agreed to ride defensively for Kuss originally is true, and allowing this in-fighting to break out; and then if that is not true and they did originally have the freedom to race amongst themselves once the podium lockout was assured, they'd still look weak for not having the courage of their convictions and crumbling in the face of Twitter users to fix the result the way people on social media want it because they like a happy ending more than they do a race.
 
That's as may be, but it's also testament to how badly the team has played it, I mean not badly in respect of them still doing the 1-2-3, but it's classic SD Worx style, not being the smartest but by being so comically overpowered that they still dominate. The Jumbo PR department has been where all the interest has been in this race, realistically. Before Angliru there's always the danger of Kuss dropping because it's the third straight GT, he's always historically had a bad day and he isn't used to going for GC, so it makes sense to build a buffer for the more proven commodities too.

Then they seemed like they'd let the road decide once the 1-2-3 was on, only to be cowed into submission by asocial media being upset that their boy would lose out because once they were happy to let them race, the buffer he needed to be a Giovannetti or Mauri was no longer there because he wasn't strong enough against his teammates. So the road was no longer allowed to decide, but because the cat was out of the bag, they couldn't just ride in formation without it looking artificial as hell.

If they'd rode up Angliru in formation like Glassdrive on Senhora da Graça it would have been very disappointing and anticlimactic, but it would've just been, oh, that's how they're playing it. But because they let them race on Angliru and then changed their mind so blatantly (and it looked so false and pre-meditated as a result), everybody looks weak, which is not a word you'd usually associate with a team locking out the podium of the third biggest stage race of the year.

Kuss is made to look weak because he was shown up on Angliru to be the weakest of the three and that at least one of his teammates could take that jersey any time he liked, so he gets his career's crowning glory to be a charity case; Vingegaard and Roglič both look weak because they backed down in the face of being told to let their teammate win (for all Bruyneel's posturing, I laugh at the idea of him telling Armstrong to do that, and even more at the idea of Lance being submissive enough to do so); and the team look weak two-fold: first for not being able to control their team leaders if the story that they agreed to ride defensively for Kuss originally is true, and allowing this in-fighting to break out; and then if that is not true and they did originally have the freedom to race amongst themselves once the podium lockout was assured, they'd still look weak for not having the courage of their convictions and crumbling in the face of Twitter users to fix the result the way people on social media want it because they like a happy ending more than they do a race.
Agreed. It’s truly toe curling. However, there was a little bit of intrigue as to how Jumbo were going to play it. Letting the nice guy win or Vingo smashing it. Either way, it’s all bad and would be if Rog smashed it too. This kind of über domination is terrible for the “sport”. It’s time for me to go into “classics only” mode, again. During the Lance years, the Froome years and now the Jumbo years, the classics have been where the suspense lies.
 
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That's as may be, but it's also testament to how badly the team has played it, I mean not badly in respect of them still doing the 1-2-3, but it's classic SD Worx style, not being the smartest but by being so comically overpowered that they still dominate. The Jumbo PR department has been where all the interest has been in this race, realistically. Before Angliru there's always the danger of Kuss dropping because it's the third straight GT, he's always historically had a bad day and he isn't used to going for GC, so it makes sense to build a buffer for the more proven commodities too.

Then they seemed like they'd let the road decide once the 1-2-3 was on, only to be cowed into submission by asocial media being upset that their boy would lose out because once they were happy to let them race, the buffer he needed to be a Giovannetti or Mauri was no longer there because he wasn't strong enough against his teammates. So the road was no longer allowed to decide, but because the cat was out of the bag, they couldn't just ride in formation without it looking artificial as hell.

If they'd rode up Angliru in formation like Glassdrive on Senhora da Graça it would have been very disappointing and anticlimactic, but it would've just been, oh, that's how they're playing it. But because they let them race on Angliru and then changed their mind so blatantly (and it looked so false and pre-meditated as a result), everybody looks weak, which is not a word you'd usually associate with a team locking out the podium of the third biggest stage race of the year.

Kuss is made to look weak because he was shown up on Angliru to be the weakest of the three and that at least one of his teammates could take that jersey any time he liked, so he gets his career's crowning glory to be a charity case; Vingegaard and Roglič both look weak because they backed down in the face of being told to let their teammate win (for all Bruyneel's posturing, I laugh at the idea of him telling Armstrong to do that, and even more at the idea of Lance being submissive enough to do so); and the team look weak two-fold: first for not being able to control their team leaders if the story that they agreed to ride defensively for Kuss originally is true, and allowing this in-fighting to break out; and then if that is not true and they did originally have the freedom to race amongst themselves once the podium lockout was assured, they'd still look weak for not having the courage of their convictions and crumbling in the face of Twitter users to fix the result the way people on social media want it because they like a happy ending more than they do a race.

After sleeping on this whole ordeal a bit, I'm actually even more depressed. It's the quasi bullying by the cycling press (journalists, influencers, youtubers) to get their preferred winner to win which I find most disgusting.

All the patronizing "well done Jonas & Primož for finally riding for Kuss" comments, tweets, articles & videos makes me slightly nauseous. Who are these people to say what is right or isn't right in pro-cycling? Why are they self-anointed custodians of the moral code of bike racing? Will this be repeated in future races when a dom gets ahead in GC? So many questions. I mean what really happened here is based on Jumbo's total dominance of this race, the media decided they wanted the underdog to win versus Rog & Vinge.

In reality that 'code' whereby riders don't attack their leader comes from a more grounded tactical reality in which a team must stay united in order to prevent dispersing itself & leaving itself vulnerable to attacks from its rivals, i.e. don't leave the leader unprotected when he could get outnumbered & beaten by other teams. It's not "the random events of this race & its tactical situation has given this domestique the lead, so okay boys, all behind the race leader now!".

From the moment Jumbo had the 3 strongest riders in the race, there was zero risk in them fighting each other. It's not like F1 when Hamilton & Alonso fought each other in the 2007 season (which Räikkönen won), no, there was zero threat to their 1, 2, 3 in GC.

So let them respectfully fight with equal chances & normal rules of engagement (like allowing them to chase each other down as well).
 
While I cheer for Evenepoel I really don't enjoy it when cyclists way too good for it go stage hunting. Reminds me of when Carapaz did it.

Other hopefuls cannot reasonably compete.

Saving grace is that this wasn't the plan from the beginning.

Talking about mountain stages specifically.
What should be the purpose of fighting against the top three in the GC, for tenth place in the stage ? That would be stupid. You, being a pro rider, would do exactly the same as Evenepoel...... having the same legs.
 
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Chapeau to Remco beating a bunch of breakaway riders from Caja Rural and team Hermanos Ebrios.
But then, why did the other hundred riders didn't do what Evenepoel did today. Or at least the other strong guys, not a thread for the GC anymore. Uijtdebroeks, Vlasov, Almeida, Buitrago, Rodriguez, Soler. They have no chance taking back time, they have no chance winning the stage staying with Roglic, Vingegaard, Ayuso.. But they have no chance either beating Evenepoel. But most important. They haven't the guts.