Just ahead of them on the road were the rest of the GC riders (minus Cian Uijtdebroeks, the only GC man to have been dropped a little earlier), who all managed to seal their spots in the top 10 on the overall classification. With all the drama surrounding Jumbo-Visma and Remco Evenepoel’s highs and lows constantly grabbing the headlines, these other riders have all flown relatively under the radar during this race. But now the general classification has finished (barring illness, crashes, or decorum-defying racing tomorrow), we can reflect on which riders will be happy and unhappy with how their races have ended.
In fourth place, Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) might not have succeeded in overthrowing one of the Jumbo-Visma tridents to make the podium, but he did manage to finish as the highest-placed Spanish rider. With the Jumbo-Visma riders riding at such a superior level, this became about the best Ayuso and the compatriots nearby him on GC could hope for, marking a successful race for the young UAE Team Emirates rider, even if it does regress a little from the third place he managed last year. He talked a big game both before and during the race, entering it with the ambition of bettering his third-place finish from 2022 and remaining hopeful of making the podium even after Jumbo-Visma seized control of the race, but adopted a more defensive approach in the final stages as he concentrated on defending his fourth-place position. On the day he turned 21 years old, the result reiterated Ayuso’s ability to go the distance at Grand Tours following a few inconsistent performances in stage races earlier this year, suggesting what a bright future is ahead of him.
Immediately behind him in fifth place is Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious), who has defied expectations to finish so high on GC after such a difficult second half of the season. This might be the last time the 33-year-old ever rides as a GC leader at a Grand Tour before he moves to Soudal–Quick-Step primarily in the role of super-domestique for Remco Evenepoel, and, contrary to what many believed, he proved he can still mix it up at this level. Perhaps he’s merited a chance to ride as leader at one of the Grand Tours Evenepoel doesn’t target?
Sixth place for Enric Mas (Movistar) marks a return to the kind of consistent, reliable GC racer he made his reputation as, but not the more attacking, dangerous rider who put Remco Eveneoel under pressure at last year’s Vuelta. It’s certainly a welcome return to fitness following his opening day crash at the Tour de France this summer, but it still feels like something of a crossroads for the 28-year-old, who is set to register the seventh top-six Grand Tour finish of his career but is still yet to win one. Will he ever manage to reach the top step of the podium?
This is a similar dilemma faced by the next rider down on GC in seventh, Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe). Since bursting onto the scene either side of the Covid interruption during the 2020 season, Vlasov has made the top seven now in all three of the Grand Tours but has yet to finish higher than fourth. He went into this Vuelta as an outside contender for the podium after finishing second overall at the Vuelta a Burgos and pretty much matched expectations by finishing seventh. Now 27, he’s firmly established himself as a reliable Grand Tour GC contender, but not as somebody who challenges for the top honours. As a rider who also boasts a quick finish and punchy acceleration, perhaps more of a focus on hilly Classics like Liège–Bastogne–Liège and Il Lombardia would be more fruitful.
Vlasov might already have fallen one place down the pecking order of Bora-Hansgrohe’s GC contenders due to the breakthrough performance of Cian Uijtdebroeks. He slipped one position from seventh to eighth after being dropped in the finale today, but that still completes a Grand Tour debut rare in its accomplishment. The 20-year-old seemed to love every minute of it, too, based on the upbeat interviews he gave throughout the race and looks set to be a star of the sport.
João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) was ninth and probably would have placed higher had he not been struck by sickness earlier in the race. To finish so high after such a setback, he reinforces how reliable a competitor he is and prolongs his extraordinary run of making the top ten in 22 of the 24 stage races he’s competed in since February 2020. He might not have been able to repeat his podium finish from the Giro d’Italia but still becomes one of only three riders (along with Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič) to make the top ten of two Grand Tours this year.
Rounding off the top ten is the only rider (save for Uijtdebroeks) who had never before made the top ten of a Grand Tour: Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious). That’s another step forward for the Colombian following his 12th and 13th-place finishes at the last two Giro d’Italia, though he didn’t manage to replicate his stage win success from the latter. He did come close on stage 13 but was foiled by Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty).
At just 23 years old, he’s also one of four riders in the top ten aged 25 and younger. The recent trend of strong, youthful performances continues, and bright futures abound for young riders like Ayuso, Uijtdebroeks and Almeida — while older riders like Mas, Vlasov and Landa continue to have their status threatened.