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Disappointment is often a stepping-stone to success in life.
The team has not torn down its house to start from scratch but has tweaked around the edges to build firmer foundations. Kuss is part of a largely unchanged line-up behind team leader Primož Roglič that has been working hard together since the start of the season to bounce back from the disappointment of last year.
Jumbo-Visma was the powerhouse team at the 2020 Tour de France, controlling the race in the way Team Sky did during its lengthy reign at the grand tour. While it comes with a similarly strong eight this year, it is not the only one and it will be able to rely on defending champions UAE-Team Emirates to pick up the pace-setting in the peloton.
“We were a super strong team last year and we have more or less the same group this year, so we have that same strength, but we’ve learned a lot,” Kuss said in a press conference Thursday. “We’ve also learned about the other rivals.
“This year, we’ve also had a lot more races leading into the Tour, so we’ve also seen how other teams are riding and how other riders are. That also gives us more detail on how we can approach the Tour this year.”
Kuss has been one of Roglič’s most reliable support men in the mountains over the last 12 months and has often been the last man standing for the Slovenian. Despite coming away without his desired stage win at the Critérium du Dauphiné this month, the Colorado native feels he is just as strong going into this year’s Tour de France as he was in 2020.
“I think compared to last year, I feel at a similar level,” said Kuss. “Last year was definitely different with the COVID situation and even weeks before the race we were still unsure how things would be and if we would make it to the race. I knew that the Tour was the big goal this year so I prepared as best as possible for it, so I knew that I would be good. I think compared to last year everything is pretty similar.
Roglič returns to racing
Though they have been training together at altitude in Tignes, and in the Sierra Nevada in May, Kuss and Roglič have not raced together this year after taking a different approach to the opening months of the season.
Indeed, while Kuss has packed in two stage races over the last two months, Roglič has not raced since the Ardennes classics in April. His decision to use only training to get himself into form for the Tour de France rather than ride one of the June stage races breaks with tradition, but Roglič is not worried that it will leave him lacking.
“It’s true that it is a little bit of a different approach, but I already did some things like that, because also in past seasons I did just the Giro and the Vuelta,” Roglič said. “It went well and also normally I always come from altitude ready. Looking back to last year, it was also a big break with all the coronavirus things going on. I also started strong, so I’m confident and we’ll just have to wait and see how it will go.
“I was spending more time in the mountains. I did some good training on the road bike and on the TT bike and make myself ready for the start of the Tour.”
Despite it being one of his strengths, the time trial was the undoing for Roglič in last year’s Tour de France. There are two chronos in this year’s race, and though they pose a very different challenge from the steep ride up Planches des Belles Filles, they will be key for his overall chances.
“Both time trials, how decisive they will be we will know at the end but as we saw last year, they could be really crucial. A lot of really big differences could happen there, so with this in the mind we have tried to train with the TT bike this year, try to put a lot of work in. Now, with these two time trials, we will see how we manage it.
“I have tried to put some more work into it to be better. The feeling is ok but when you are alone you don’t know how fast you are. We will see at the end how strong and fast we are.”