With a textbook lead-out backed up by a perfectly timed surge to the finish line, Team BikeExchange-Jayco scored the victory of stage 11 at the Vuelta a España. It was Kaden Groves first across the line, winner in a Grand Tour for the first time.


After the rest day and the time trial came an opportunity for the sprinters and Kaden Groves seized the moment to collect his maiden Grand Tour stage victory in Cabo de Gato. For a flat stage of the Vuelta a España, the average speed was a surprisingly tranquil 37.832km/h, but that relates to the entire 191.5km journey to near the southern most point of this year’s race.

The pace for the finale, however, was frenetic as sprint lead-outs formed at the same time the teams of GC specialists kept the speed high to ensure a safe arrival for their leaders.

Out of the Vuelta before the start of stage 11 was Team BikeExchange-Jayco’s Simon Yates. The 30-year-old who won the title of the Spanish Grand Tour in 2018 was lying in fifth place overall after the time trial but COVID forced him to abandon the race, leaving his team to pick up the pieces of a campaign that ground to a halt just as it was picking up momentum with Yates’ seventh place in the TT of stage 10.


The DeTour’s overview of stage 11 (click the link, below).



The virus continues its destruction of the peloton, with Yates one of many to quit the Vuelta because of COVID, but BikeExchange-Jayco managed the disappointment by putting the lead-out train on the rails on the approach to Cabo de Gato.

Luke Durbridge was the first to be called up to do the work at the front of the bunch. That was phase one of what became a fantastic team victory. Never one to hide from a challenge, ‘Durbo’ limited the gains of the breakaway and paved the way for others in the Australian team to come to the fore.

Inside the final three kilometres and the head of the peloton changed colours: Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers riders who had been matching the efforts of lead-out riders retreated into the bunch and Alpecin-Deceuninck emerged to challenge those who were doing the work for Groves.

Rob Stannard momentarily muscled his way into the lead before another surge came from a team-mate in the hope that they could ruin the good work done by BikeExchange-Jayco. Tim Merlier was the rider Stannard was leading out and the Belgian champion later showed impressive speed to challenge for the victory.

Merlier’s team influenced the lead-out, but it was nowhere near as well organised as the perfect delivery that Groves enjoyed.

With three kilometres remaining and the pace at close to 60km/h, Groves was tucked neatly in position on the wheel of three team-mates. Lawson Craddock, sixth in the TT a day earlier (five seconds faster than future DNS, Yates in seventh place), showed that his efforts in the time trial didn’t sap his strength.

The American laid the foundations for Kelland O’Brien and then Michael Hepburn and the two former pursuit world champions continued with a sustained lead-out to ensure that Groves was in the prime position to finish off the job.

O’Brien didn’t flinch when Stannard and his cohort tried to upset the rhythm; the 24-year-old Vuelta debutant’s speed was such that no late escape could be considered. It was a flat stage, and the quest was a bunch sprint for the finish. And BikeExchange-Jayco got their wish.

Scroll down the result sheet and you see Durbridge in 144th place, Craddock 132nd, O’Brien 115th, Hepburn 33rd… those results don’t matter, but they highlight the commitment of a collective in the quest for victory.

It’s the first line of the results that matters and Kaden Groves’ name is the one in bold after the sprint was complete. First in stage 11, and a Grand Tour victory to his credit.



“With the news this morning of Simon going positive for COVID, all the boys were pretty disappointed,” said Groves afterward. “This is the best way to bounce back after such bad news.

“I’m really happy to celebrate, but I also wish [Simon] was here, because he’s a part of this team.”

It’s another Vuelta stage win for an Australian, with Groves becoming the 12th Aussie to put his name on the honour roll of the Spanish race.

Added to the two victories for Jay Vine (winner of stages six and eight), Australia now boast three stage wins in the opening half of the Vuelta and although BikeExchange-Jayco’s bid for a good GC result is over, the team can be pleased with their efforts on a day of disappointment.

“I’ve got to thank all the guys,” continued Groves in the post-stage interview.

“Luke was riding all day, and then we set up early for the wind. We thought there would be crosswinds a bit earlier, but there was nothing until the final four kilometres where we were first team, and the guys did a perfect job of keeping me in front and fresh.”

Later this month, the focus of the cycling world will be on Australia when the worlds come to Wollongong (18-25 September) but right now, Australian riders are getting attention on the roads of Spain. On climbs and in sprints, the Aussie contingent is having an impact at La Vuelta of 2022.

Groves and Vine have not been called up for national team duties for Wollongong, but they have certainly gained some headlines for their respective trade teams at the race in Spain which concludes a fortnight before the finale of the worlds. If COVID comes along and upsets the original selection for the Aussie team, there are clearly more than a few capable replacement options.

Stage 11 of the Vuelta began with upsetting news for the Australian-registered WorldTour team but ended with a victory. Groves finished off the good work his team-mates and although GC is out of reach the winner in Cabo de Gato hinted that he’s willing and ready to sprint again later in the race.

“I’m super happy to get a win here already,” said Groves, “and there are still more stages to come.”



– By Rob Arnold