The triplet - winning a stage in each of cycling’s three Grand Tours - is a feat that only a few cyclists will ever accomplish. Those that do will have their name inscribed in the sport’s annals forever, a definitive and eternal reminder of their greatness.
On yet another bizarre day at the Vuelta a España, one raced with the spectre of severe rainfall and storms hanging over it, Lennard Kämna of Bora-hansgrohe completed the coveted achievement many dream of doing, but to date only 107 have achieved.
Just a few days short of his 27th birthday, Kämna has established himself as one of the sport’s best climbers, punchiest riders, and thoughtful individuals. This is a rider who, in May 2021, just under a year since he announced himself on the big stage with an Alpine win in the Tour de France, took a lengthy break from the sport to manage what he termed “career stress”. He had stopped enjoying riding his bike, and had shut himself off to other life experiences; his mid-20s, he reasoned, were not years to be wasted. “I lived my life wrong,” he reflected.
Image: ASO/Sprint Cycling Agency/Unipublic
He returned refreshed in 2022, with better control, a greater sense of what makes Lenny Kämna tick. “I want to be careful in the future. I think I am more stable,” he said. It was noticeable: high-profile wins followed, including a Giro d’Italia triumph at Mount Etna. At that year’s Tour, he was just 11 seconds shy of taking the yellow jersey off Tadej Pogačar midway through the race.
Kämna, you could say, is typically German: he’s philosophical, efficient and ambitious. This season, he wanted to explore his limits as a general classification rider: fourth, sixth and ninth at Tirreno-Adriatico, Tour of the Alps and the Giro were respectful returns. But, his team told Rouleur recently, it wasn’t Lenny.
The pressure of riding for GC, of being attentive every kilometre of every stage, sapped some of the enjoyment out of the racing. Kämna is best when he is free, when he can go up the road in search of breakaway victories. He tried it on stage three of this year’s Vuelta, only to be caught inside the final kilometre. On stage nine, he was not to be denied, attacking on the final slopes up to the Cruz de Caravaca and engraving his name into eternity. “I am super happy,” he beamed afterwards. “It was not always easy after the Giro. I had a lot of setbacks, and I am so happy that I’m back on the podium and that I could take this win.”
Entering his assumed peak years of his career, Kämna’s future is a blank canvas. He may try for GC again - certainly in one-week races he shouldn’t be discounted - but you get the feeling that he’s better off focusing on racking up the Grand Tour stage wins. He’s reminded us before that nothing, not even chasing for sporting success, should take the place of internal contentment and satisfaction, but a happy and thriving Lenny Kämna, like the one we’re witnessing at the Vuelta a España, makes a positive and joyous impression on the sport.
Cover image: Getty