SANTUARIO DEL ACEBO, Spain (VN) — American Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), let off the leash by team leader and Vuelta a España leader Primoz Roglic, went solo for his first grand tour stage victory on Sunday.
While Roglic watched his rivals, Kuss made the escape and then broke free mid-way up the climb to the Santuario del Acebo. The 24-year-old from Durango, Colorado, high-fived fans. He had only debuted in grand tours at last year’s Vuelta, but attributed his victory to the experience gained along the way.
“At this point last year, I was completely dead,” said Kuss. “It was getting difficult to stay in the front group, I was so exhausted.”
The Dutch team gave Kuss the call up last year after he won the Tour of Utah. It went so well in the 2018 Vuelta, he then raced the 2019 Giro d’Italia for Roglic as well.
“I learned a lot in this year’s Giro d’Italia and after the Giro, in the Dauphiné,” he added. “I felt a lot better.”
Now the Vuelta a España. Kuss has been working at the front for Roglic, who leads by 2:25 over second-place Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). At the first big summit finish to Javalambre on stage 5, Kuss pulled and broke the group down to the main players. Again, he was there on the other summit finishes.
It was a tactical game by Jumbo-Visma today. It covered the moves of rival teams: Astana put Ion Izaguirre in the early escape and Movistar had Marc Soler. Kuss, Roglic’s key man alongside George Bennett, went along for the ride. First, he thought of being there for Roglic, then the opportunity presented itself.
“I wanted to ride within myself and have a little bit in reserve in case Primoz came across,” he said. “Maybe it was a bit too early to go, but I felt good.”
The Vuelta has been kind to Americans. Last year, Benjamin King (Dimension Data) won two stages in the grand tour.
“I think it’s just clarification that he can be one of the best climbers in the world,” Kuss’s American teammate Neilson Powless said.
“I think he’s been showing his climbing ability the last couple weeks, but today we kind of sent him in the in the move up front just to kind of be there, and because they had such a big gap going into the final climb, Sepp was given the freedom to go for the stage.
“And now it’s really incredible. It is really cool to see him, see the way he’s progressing and seeing that he’s just more consistently at the top climbing with the top 10 to 15 riders in the world.”