Alberto Dainese edged out compatriot Filippo Ganna in a bunch sprint to win stage 19 of the Vuelta a Espana on Friday, as Sepp Kuss maintained his overall lead.
Kuss remains ahead of his Jumbo-Visma teammates Jonas Vingegaard, who is 17 seconds behind, and Primoz Roglic who is a further 51 seconds back, after the trio ended safely in the pack.
Kuss will be expected to see out a maiden Grand Tour title in Saturday’s hilly 208km ride from Manzanares el Real to Guadarrama and Sunday’s traditional procession into Madrid.
Jumbo are bidding to become the first team to secure a podium clean sweep at the Vuelta since 1966.
Glory for Kuss this weekend would also wrap up a Grand Tour hat-trick in 2023 for the Dutch team, after Roglic’s Giro win and Vingegaard’s second straight Tour de France triumph.
“It was a little easier day today but you have to stay focused all the time,” said Kuss.
The finish to Friday’s stage in Iscar was marred by a crash in the final kilometre for points classification leader Kaden Groves which split the peloton in two. The Australian appeared unhurt but was unable to push for his third stage win of the race.
Dainese took advantage to grab his maiden Vuelta stage success, adding to two previous wins on the Giro d’Italia.
“With the headwind, I let Ganna take the lead,” he said. “I was waiting for my moment to accelerate. I really wanted to finish the season in a good way and leave DSM in style.
“I was under a lot of pressure because I knew that it was probably my last chance to thank the team.”
Saturday’s stage is not a formality for Kuss, with 10 category-three climbs to negotiate, but his Jumbo team appear to have decided that he is their man for the overall leader’s red jersey.
🚴♂️Día de calma en el pelotón con un sprint explosivo. ¡Revive los mejores momentos de la etapa 1⃣9⃣ en 1 minuto!
— La Vuelta (@lavuelta) September 15, 2023