Vuelta a Espana

Sepp Kuss drops the pounds to drop his rivals

The 23-year-old American said he got down to his ideal race weight in the last few months by eating smarter.

How good is Sepp Kuss (LottoNL-Jumbo) in his grand tour debut? The 23-year-old Coloradan was the last domestique out of an elite group of 20 GC riders taking pulls on the first summit finale in this Vuelta a España on Sunday.

Kuss told VeloNews he knocked nearly 10 pounds off his frame this spring to hit his ideal weight coming into the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and the Vuelta. Power-to-weight ratios are the magical elixir in today’s peloton, and it took Kuss a few months to find his perfect racing weight when he moved to the WorldTour this year.

“I lost quite a bit of weight. In the spring, I was heavier than I’ve been in my life,” Kuss told VeloNews. “Maybe it was my body changing. I was really heavy in the spring and my numbers weren’t that good either. That wasn’t the best combination. So when I went back home to Colorado it almost instantly went away.”

Kuss spent several weeks at altitude this spring with his new European teammates to prepare for the upcoming season. While the intense sessions fortified his base, he found himself surprisingly gaining weight and bulked out to 145 pounds. That’s never good for a climber.

Weight makes a huge difference when trying to drop rivals on climbs in today’s super-sleek peloton at the WorldTour level. By summer, Kuss hit his ideal race weight of 61 kilograms — about 134 pounds — just in time for his major season goals.

“In the U.S., you can get away with being 4kg overweight and still do well. Here, you have to be really careful with it,” he said. “At Dauphiné, I was 65-66kg, and I was still riding pretty well. I knew I had a bit more to lose. At Utah and here I am about 61kg.”

The difference is remarkable. By August, Kuss was flying and ripped through the Utah tour en route to winning three stages and taking the overall by more than two minutes ahead of Belgian veteran Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy).

At the Vuelta, the sleeker Kuss has been even more impressive. At the Alcafar climb in stage 4 and again up La Covatilla on Sunday, Kuss set a brutal pace for LottoNL-Jumbo captains Steven Kruijswijk and George Bennett. Kuss dashed to 10th in stage 7 at Pozo Alcón while leading out Kruijswijk and was the last domestique Sunday up La Covatilla to finish 20th on the Vuelta’s first major summit finale.

How did he knock the pounds off? Kuss said getting a handle on his weight meant learning to become more professional as well as more disciplined with his diet.

“Usually I can eat whatever I wanted — go out on the weekends and do things like that,” he said. “Now you cannot get away with that. You just have to be thoughtful about what you’re putting in your body.”