Sepp Kuss attacked and no one could answer.
The Jumbo-Visma climber danced away from the elite of a breakaway Sunday to take a dramatic victory in the Vuelta a España.
The 24-year-old Coloradan was so far ahead he could slap high-fives to the fans lining the road high in Spain’s Cantabrian range. The joy was contagious.
“It’s pretty big I guess. It hasn’t quite sunk in,” Kuss said. “It’s a pretty incredible stage.”
Kuss’s victory is confirmation of just how far he’s come since joining the WorldTour in 2018. Jumbo-Visma brought him to last year’s Vuelta after his superb performance at the Tour of Utah. Kuss more than proved his worth, and when Robert Gesink crashed out ahead of the Giro d’Italia in May, the first rider on their list was Kuss.
Now back for his third grand tour start, Kuss had reached a new level of maturity and depth for this Vuelta.
He proved it on Sunday. Kuss followed the wheels when the attacks came in decisive climbing stage across Spain’s Asturian mountains. With Jumbo-Visma in the driver’s seat, sometimes the best defense is a strong offense.
“We were attentive in the start, and we know Movistar and Astana would send some guys in the break. I knew those guys were strong riders, so I followed,” Kuss said. “The gap was still a bit close in the middle of the stage, so I only followed, because I was thinking the GC group would catch and I could help Primoz.
“When the gap went out to a bigger margin again, it was enough time go for the stage win,” he said. “That’s what makes the Vuelta so special, the passion and being so close to the fans. Also on your bad days, when you’re 30 minutes behind the winner, they’re still cheering you and supporting you.”
With team captain and race leader Primoz Roglic covering an attack from Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) from behind, Kuss had a free ride to try his luck. Unhindered by his helper duties, the most promising American climber in a generation could show off to the whole world what everyone in the United States has known for a few years now.