A year later, the Coloradan is helping pace his Jumbo-Visma team captain toward the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, one mountain at a time.
With this atypical Tour de France being contested in September, Kuss made the most of celebrating his 26th birthday doing what he does best.
“It was a hard day, but a nice day for the team,” Kuss said Sunday. “We rode a perfect race.”
Kuss was at the sharp end of the day-long bludgeoning that Jumbo-Visma wreaked upon the peloton Sunday in the three-climb stage that concluded with the fearsome Hors Categorie ascent of Grand Colombier.
The yellow jackets of Jumb0-Visma massed at the front of the bunch to set a withering pace up the Colombier climb that saw defending champion Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) lose more than seven minutes.
“Everybody was at a whole different level today,” Kuss said. “It was good to ride our own race, and as a result a lot of guys were suffering.”
Kuss and Tom Dumoulin took the final pulls on the upper reaches of Grand Colombier after Wout van Aert pummeled the main GC group to drop Bernal and Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), among others. Archrival Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) pipped Roglič at the line to snatch the win, but the team was euphoric to see Bernal eliminated as a direct GC threat.
“Maybe in the final we could have played it differently,” Kuss said. “Maybe I should have been behind Tom so I could accelerate. I think we were watching Pogačar to react to him a bit too much, but it was another good stage for us.”
Kuss’s performance so far through this Tour confirms he deserved a spot on the team’s highly effective lineup that is slowly throttling the race for the yellow jersey.
The Coloradan climber, who hails from Durango, joined Jumbo-Visma in 2018 and quickly earned the team’s trust.
He fought onto the team’s Vuelta squad that fall, and posted some impressive numbers in the mountains. He was a late-hour replacement to race the Giro d’Italia in May 2019, and emerged as one of the most reliable helpers for Roglič. The team selected Kuss to help protect Roglič en route to the breakthrough Vuelta victory one year ago, capped by Kuss’s own stage victory in the final week.
Kuss was on the team’s long list for selection for the 2020 squad in what would be his Tour debut. The three-month lockdown due to the coronavirus meant that Kuss would be racing in another grand tour on his birthday, but he didn’t expect it to be the Tour.
“Every day I’ve been feeling better, much better than I felt in the first week,” Kuss said. “That’s a nice feeling to have this far into the race. Every stage has been so hard, it’s a nice way to feel at this point.”
The former mountain biker is taking it all in stride.
Every morning, he casually chats with journalists before the start and doesn’t seem too fazed by the hoopla surrounding the Tour. A confirmed world-class climber, many expect Kuss to emerge as America’s next grand tour rider. With his long-term future set with Jumbo-Visma, it will be interesting to see if team management gives him a chance to take on more leadership responsibilities in the coming seasons.
Right now, Kuss is firmly focused on the business at hand. It’s all about pushing Roglič to Paris in yellow.
“I tried to focus on the race today,” Kuss said of his birthday. “Maybe we’ll have a party later.”
Paris wouldn’t be a bad place to celebrate.