Vuelta a Espana

Primož Roglič: ‘Sepp Kuss can win the Vuelta a España’

Team leader Roglič ready to ride as equal with Kuss, who sits just 44 seconds off the GC lead ahead of key climbing stage to Formigal.

Sepp Kuss dominated in the mountains of the Tour de France, and now his Jumbo-Visma leader Primož Roglič is leveling with him for victory in Spain.

Though defending champion Roglič currently holds the Vuelta a España‘s leader’s jersey with a key stage to Formigal on the horizon Sunday, the Slovenian is ready to ride as an equal with 26-year-old Kuss, who currently sits sixth overall at 44-seconds.

“Sepp can win, he is in great shape and we are working well together,” Roglič said after Saturday’s stage. “In the end, it doesn’t matter if I win or him. We’re doing our best and we can be proud of it.”

Kuss went into the Vuelta as an all-out domestique for Tom Dumoulin, however, when the Dutchman lost eight minutes on the second stage, Jumbo-Visma’s game-plan went out of the window. Although the team also has George Bennett up in contention in 10th overall, it’s Kuss who is the Dutch squad’s dangerman.

Having reconfirmed his climbing prowess on the Vuelta’s opener in the hills of Irun, Kuss has continued rubbing shoulders with the GC pack on the race’s tough, hilly opening week in support of Roglič. Saturday, the red-hot climber went on the offense early, going up the road in the breakaway to put pressure on Roglič’s GC rivals in the group of favorites behind as the young Coloradan moved to the top of the virtual GC.

“It took a long time before a breakaway got established, but with Jonas [Vingegaard] and Sepp we always had one rider in the break. That was ideal for us”, Roglič said.

While Kuss fell back to support Roglič when the breakaway shattered, he may be given a free rein in the stages to come now Dumoulin is well out of contention as Jumbo Visma looks to keep two cards in play.

Sunday’s major mountain stage to Formigal could provide the Durangan his first opportunity. Although  Kuss would have been in his element in the now-canceled summit finish to the 2,115m Col du Tourmalet, the alternative summit finish on the long grind to Formigal is still bread-and-butter for the man from the Rockies.

“I expect a big fight from start to finish,” Roglič said of Sunday’s sixth stage, which caps off the hardest first week of a grand tour in memory.

“It will be a tough stage. The team is in a good shape and we cannot do more than our best. We will try as a team to win this Vuelta and if we succeed, we can be very happy and proud.”

Kuss has spoken of his desire to lead a grand tour team in the absence of pressure. Standing level with Roglič, he may have his opportunity starting Sunday.