La Roja for King Kenny

A bittersweet moment for Kenny Elissonde who takes over La Vuelta race lead in Stage 5 after the red jersey, Rein Taaramae, is caught in a late crash

It’s a tough situation to be in. You have just been awarded the coveted leader’s jersey of a Grand Tour, but it came as a result of the race leader getting caught up in a late crash.

Do you celebrate? Can you?

In the quotes below, Kenny Elissonde responds to a bittersweet moment in Stage 5 at the 2021 Vuelta a Espana after taking over the race lead. He was respectful to race leader Rein Taaramae and honored the red jersey at the same time.

I did not see the crash. I was in the top 10-15 positions at this moment. This is not the way I wanted to take the jersey. We know in cycling when there is wind there is risk. And you could lose it also with an echelon, so you have to be vigilant. Still, I don’t like it. It’s not a pleasure. But at the end of the day, you cannot do anything else, it’s like this.

It’s still incredible to wear this jersey as leader of a Grand Tour. After the Tour and the Olympics, I took it easy, and the team asked me if I could go to the Vuelta and just take it day by day. And look! That’s cycling. It’s incredible.

I had in the back of my mind this morning that it might be a good idea to try and stay in the front as much as possible – not for a crash but in case of a split – and this is why I was in the front of the crash. I did not know there was a crash until I heard in the radio that our GC leader, Giulio Ciccone, was not in the first group, and I looked behind and saw the group was really small.

I was just focused with Alex (Kirsch) to bring Giulio to the front at 5kms to go. Then I heard that if arrive with this group I am the new leader. It’s something that happens like this, and you are not really ready for it.

I spoke with Rein this morning – because he crashed yesterday – and I said to him you are lucky it was in the last 3kms because you deserve the jersey and I would not have been that happy to have taken it in that way. And now, today, that happened.

The thing is Roglic is 5 seconds behind, and tomorrow is already a GC test. I am not yet into overthinking about this. I am just enjoying and looking forward to going back to the hotel with my team and having a nice dinner together.