Jumbo-Visma rider Primož Roglič has been one of the most hated-then-loved-again cyclists on the internet following Stage 17 of the 2023 Vuelta a España. In a move that made Jumbo-Visma quite possibly the most criticized team ever on social media, the 33-year-old Roglič, along with teammate and Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard, rode away from race leader Sepp Kuss to take the stage win. Why was this move scandalous enough to cause such an uproar? Because Kuss also happens to be one of their teammates.
While the team has said from the beginning that it’s essentially racing with three leaders in the last Grand Tour of the year, and that whoever has the strongest legs will go for a team win, the internet did not like what it saw on Stage 17. Many commenters insisted that the team should be working for Kuss, just as Kuss has played the super domestique role during every past Grand Tour that has been elemental in getting both Roglič and Vingegaard on podiums in the past.
The following day, during stage 18, both Roglič and Vingegaard played by the more traditional playbook of protecting their teammate’s race lead, ensuring that Kuss kept the red jersey and setting him up to be the likely winner of this year’s Vuelta. Whether this markedly different tactic had anything to do with the deluge of negative publicity the team was on the receiving end of during the previous 24 hours, or whether it was the plan all along, we’ll likely never know.
One thing that’s undeniable is that the tactics of cycling’s current reigning superteam gave cycling fans a lot to talk about and has made the 2023 Vuelta a must-see for American racing fans.
It’s probably not surprising that the rumor mill is working overtime about possible internal tensions on Jumbo-Visma, since drama often begets even more drama. Some of the latest gossip claims that Roglič is looking to jump to a different team next year, with the inevitable mention of Ineos Grenadiers and Team Movistar as his potential landing places.
“These are good things!” Roglič chuckled about the rumors in a video interview with Flobikes following Stage 18. “If someone wants me then obviously it means that I am doing good.”
However, when asked point blank about whether the team transfer talk is anything more than just that, Roglič dismissed the claims.
Of his teammate Sepp Kuss, Roglič had nothing but kind words. “He’s a super nice person…definitely one of my close friends.”
With only a few more days of racing left in the Vuelta, it would seem that it’s probably safe for Kuss fans to start getting really, really excited. If Kuss keeps the red jersey until Sunday, he will be the first American rider to win a Grand Tour in 10 years. Here’s hoping the U.S. will soon get a new cycling champion we can all be proud of
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