LA ROCHE-SUR-FORON, France (VN) — American Sepp Kuss was beaming at the finish line after Thursday’s 18th stage of the Tour de France. The Alps were quite literally behind him and his Jumbo-Visma teammates.
The 2020 Tour de France isn’t over yet, but it all but is for Kuss. With one rolling transition stage and an individual time trial remaining, Kuss’s hard work is done.
“It feels good,” Kuss said after bringing Primoz Roglič safely across the line. “My director was joking that this is the last day of the Tour for me.”
The 26-year-old climber has been one of the revelations of this Tour de France. He’s emerged as one of the best climbers in the Tour, and was often the last rider accompanying team captain Roglič in the key moments of the race. After pacing Roglič safely over the potentially treacherous 18th stage across the heart of the Alps, Kuss can start to breath easy.
“This third week has been really tough,” Kuss said at the finish line. “But for me personally, I’ve felt better and better every stage. I’ve felt better in the third week than in the first week. That’s encouraging.”
So encouraging, in fact, that many see Kuss as potential GC material. If he can climb as well as he can, just imagine what he could do if a team was working for him? His spectacular Tour debut, including fourth in Wednesday’s “queen” stage to the top of the HC Col de la Loze, has only heightened expectations.
In trademark style, Kuss laughed off suggestions that someday he could be leading a team at the Tour de France.
“I don’t know. I don’t think it’s for me,” Kuss said when asked by VeloNews. “If one year there is a course with tons of high altitude climbs and no time trials, maybe I can go for it.”
Perhaps surprisingly, he doesn’t see himself developing into a team like on par with the likes of teammates Tom Dumoulin or Roglič. Kuss’s debut has put him on every team’s radar. Sources told VeloNews that several high-profile teams are asking about Kuss’s availability.
Kuss, however, remains on contract with Jumbo-Visma through the end of 2021. After turning pro in 2018 with Jumbo-Visma, Kuss is content to play a support role on a team poised to win its first Tour de France title.
“In a ‘standard’ Tour de France, I’d rather try to win stages than finish in the top-5,” Kuss said. “That’s too much pressure for me.”
So what’s next for Kuss?
Kuss confirmed to VeloNews he will race the Vuelta a España, set for October 20 to November 9, after racing with the U.S. team at the road worlds in Imola, Italy, later this month.
Perhaps he will be a leader there? Again, he just laughed.
“Vuelta – that’s the plan,” he said. “I have no idea who else is going, maybe Tom [ Dumoulin]. I’m no Tom.”
Kuss is content to work in the shadows of his teammates right now. But if he keeps ripping the legs off the peloton, he’ll end up at the front sooner or later.