Sepp Kuss, 29 years old, with twelve Grand Tours under his belt, is preparing to become, almost in spite of himself, the first American to win a three-week stage race in ten years, Sunday September 17 in the streets of Madrid.
Very important in a cycling team for his qualities as first lieutenant in mountain stages, the native of Durango in Colorado admits to being “ a shadow guy “. However, his work is considered essential in one of the best teams in the world. And against all expectations, he is expected to win ahead of his teammate Jonas Vingegaard, winner of the last Tour de France. Slovenian Primoz Roglic, who won the 2019, 2020 and 2021 editions of the Vuelta, will take third place on the podium in the general classification.
Sepp Kuss took part in all three Grand Tours this year
Normally, the Durango Eagle excels in the role of model teammate which generally requires sacrificing any personal ambition. “ He is perhaps the best climber in the current peloton », Indicates Colombian Egan Bernal, winner of the 2019 Tour de France.
Sepp Kuss is the only rider, with Spaniard Luis Leon Sanchez, to have participated in all three Grand Tours this year, a feat in itself as these three-week races are grueling.
Before becoming a road champion, Sepp Kuss started with mountain biking. He arrived in Europe in 2018 when he was spotted by the Jumbo Vismo team on the Tour of California in 2017. He was then hired to assist Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic in conquering six Grand Tours (two Tours de France for the Danish, three Vueltas and a Giro for the Slovenian). Paradoxically, his qualities are such that many teams would happily make him their leader. But he prefers a more withdrawn role. “ I’m not necessarily the type of person who wants to win at all costs », Confirms the person concerned.
So when he arrives at the 2023 Vuelta, Sepp Kuss says to himself “ delighted » to be able once again « help Jonas and Primoz “. Except that Sepp Kuss took the leader’s red jersey during a breakaway and held up better than expected, especially in the time trial, his weak point. His exploits create chaos in his team, which initially hesitates to disconnect the usual leaders before deciding to ride for them.
“ He did so much for me and Primoz, I’m happy to give him back »
“ I never imagined myself finding myself in this situation.” underlines Kuss who goes so far as to experience “ imposter syndrome » . But he ” gains confidence day by day », without ever losing his smile, even when he is attacked by Vingegaard and Roglic in the Angliru during the 17th stage.
At the top of the Alto de l’Angliru last Wednesday, renowned for being one of the most difficult climbs in the world, Sepp Kuss retained his leader’s jersey for just eight seconds. After getting rid of all their opponents, Primoz Roglic, Jonas Vingegaard and Sepp Kuss found themselves alone in control of the stage three kilometers from the finish. Kuss had lost a little ground on his two teammates who had not waited for him on the most grueling ramps of the monster of Asturias.
“ I’m very proud that they are both behind him in the general classification. Of course, they are athletes and they want to win. The culture of winning is very strong in the team. We know how to win together, and we think a lot about how to get there. Everyone knows that they need the other to assert themselves. Jonas and Primoz are great champions, they each fought, each had their chances. But we have now established that we must run for Sepp », said Friday September 15 Richard Plugge, the manager of Jumbo-Visma, at the microphone of Eurosport. “ He did so much for me and Primoz, I’m happy to give him back », Vingegaard will eventually say.
Sunday September 17, after a final stage in Madrid in the form of a parade, in full light, Sepp Kuss will have the honors of the Spanish public, and of his team.