American rider Sepp Kuss is set to win this year’s Vuelta a Espana after Dutchman Wout Poels outsprinted Remco Evenepoel to win the penultimate stage.
Poels and Evenepoel were part of an early breakaway group, which was reduced to five for a flat finish.
And Poels, 35, denied 2022 champion Evenepoel a fourth stage win this year.
Jumbo-Visma protected leader Kuss and the 29-year-old is virtually assured of securing his first Grand Tour win in Sunday’s ceremonial final stage.
With Jonas Vingegaard second in the overall standings and Primoz Roglic third, Jumbo-Visma are also set to complete the podium and become the first team to win all three Grand Tours in the same year.
Roglic won the Giro d’Italia in May before Vingegaard retained his Tour de France title in July, but both have followed team orders over the final stages to support Kuss, who has held the leader’s red jersey since stage eight.
Stage 20 was the longest stage of this year’s race, a 208km hilly ride from Manzanares El Real. While none of the ascents were above category three, there were 10 climbs before a flat eight kilometres to the finish in Guadarrama.
The initial 31-man breakaway did not feature any general classification challengers so the Jumbo-Visma riders were happy to let the gap grow.
The final climb saw Poels attempt to get away from the rest of the breakaway group with Evenepoel, who had already clinched the King of the Mountains jersey for best climber, rallying on the descent to stay in touch.
Poels launched another attack just before the final corner to get ahead of Evenepoel and held on to beat the Belgian in the final sprint.
Stage 20 results
1. Wout Poels (Ned/Bahrain Victorious) 4hrs 59mins 29secs
2. Remco Evenepoel (Bel/Soudal-Quick-Step) Same time
3. Pelayo Sanchez (Spa/Burgos BH)
4. Lennert van Eetvelt (Bel/Lotto-Dstny)
5. Marc Soler (Spa/UAE Team Emirates) +4secs
6. Rui Costa (Por/Intermarche-Circus-Wanty) +26secs
7. Antonio Tiberi (Ita/Bahrain Victorious) Same time
8. Lennard Kamna (Ger/Bora-hansgrohe)
9. Romain Bardet (Fra/DSM-Firmenich)
10. Einer Rubio (Col/Movistar)
General classification after stage 20
1. Sepp Kuss (US/Jumbo-Visma) 74hrs 23mins 42secs
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Den/Jumbo-Visma) +17secs
3. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Jumbo-Visma) +1min 08secs
4. Juan Ayuso (Spa/UAE Team Emirates) +3mins 44secs
5. Mikel Landa (Spa/Bahrain Victorious) +4mins 3secs
6. Enric Mas (Spa/Movistar) +4mins 14secs
7. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus/Bora-hansgrohe) +8mins 19secs
8. Cian Uijtdebroeks (Bel/Bora-hansgrohe) +8mins 26secs
9. Joao Almeida (Por/UAE Team Emirates) +10mins 8secs
10. Santiago Buitrago (Col/Bahrain Victorious) +12mins 4secs