LA ROCHE-SUR-FORON, France (VN) — Sepp Kuss is not only emerging as one of the best climbers in the peloton. He’s also quickly becoming a media favorite.
The affable Coloradan works the ropes in the media mixed zone better than anyone. He’s a natural before the microphones and is a daily go-to for TV crews not only from NBC, but also Slovenian and Dutch TV.
On Thursday, he was chatting with journalists for nearly 30 minutes after the stage finished. He caught up with the major English channels before moving down to the radio and print boxes, each time giving ample time for questions.
Of course, his Tour de France all but ended today. In Friday’s transition stage, he will park behind Roglič, ride tempo in the time trial, and then party on Sunday in Paris.
“It’s not over until Paris, but today was the last big hurdle,” Kuss said. “We can’t let our guard down, but the sport directors were joking on the radio that my Tour ends today.”
Slovenians arriving en masse
I drove the route across the Alps on Thursday, in part to pay homage to this very unique edition of the Tour de France.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day, with views of Mont Blanc opening up on the horizon over the Col des Saisies. While these climbs today were not the highest or most famous in Tour history, they presented a fitting finale to this year’s Tour.
I stopped and chatted with a few fans along the way. Most fans on the road this year are French, but plenty of Slovenians are heading over to cheer on Primoz Roglič.
Roglič and Tadej Pogačar have electrified the nation, and busloads of fans are pouring into France to cheer him on. One Slovenian fan said they traveled over in a bus of 40 people, and said thousands more are planning on converging on Paris to cheer Slovenia’s first yellow jersey.
One journalist here at the race said two planeloads of fans are flying directly to Paris to celebrate the historic first.
The fat lady hasn’t sung yet, but the party is just getting started.
Ineos — not slowing down
Ineos Grenadiers got some consolation Thursday with the stage and polka-dot jersey.
It’s a sure sign that the peloton’s richest team will never take this Tour de France setback sitting down. Carapaz was in breakaways three days in a row, and when Marc Hirshi crashed, it was down to a bargain between the Ecuadorian and Polish star Michał Kwiatkowski over who would win.
They almost screwed up their deal by celebrating too loosely at the finish. It almost came down to a photo finish over who won. Imagine if Carapaz had slipped over the line first by accident?
The rumor mill is flying about who Ineos Grenadiers is bringing on for next season. With Chris Froome gone, the team has the money and space to fill.
Other names on the rumor mill are Colombian rising star Dani Martínez. That is completely unconfirmed — one of those “someone told someone” stories, but when that “someone” is a pretty good source, it usually plays out true.
Kwiatkowski told me earlier this week he is close to working out a deal to stay with the UK outfit.
Ineos Grenadiers might be out of this Tour, but they’re far from out.
Breakaway before final TT
Friday’s final real road stage is all but sure to see a breakaway stay clear. There are a lot of teams who still haven’t won a stage. With the sprinters likely fried after the Alps and saving their powder for Paris, a break should make it clear.
The presence of the points sprint at 117km into the stage, however, could mean a break might not go until late in the stage. Why? Peter Sagan and Bora-Hansgrohe are still chasing the green jersey.
Bora got its stage win with Lennard Kämna, so they might not chase. If they do, it will be all-in again for Sagan, and a break might not stay clear. It all depends on how chirpy Sagan is feeling in the morning.