BREDA, Netherlands (VN) – Jumbo-Visma have already had three different race leaders at the 2022 Vuelta a España, passing the leader’s jersey round the team like a parcel.
Robert Gesink, Mike Teunissen, and now Edoardo Affini have been men in red. As the Vuelta hits the hills of the Basque Country on Tuesday for stage 4, there’s a distinct chance that top climber Sepp Kuss could be the team’s next rider in the leader’s jersey.
The finale sees the third-category Puerto de Herrera 15 kilometers from the finish in Laguardia, reached by a steep, 900-meter long climb. So, when is it his turn?
“Oh no, I’d rather not,” Kuss told VeloNews at the finish of stage 3 in Breda, laughing. “It’s a lot of extra to do. I’d rather finish the stage and get on the bus.”
Not the expected reaction, but that’s the down-to-earth man from Colorado for you. Given his climbing ability, it might just happen if he finishes with their GC leader Primož Roglič.
“We’ll see, it would be cool to be in it but it depends on how you do it, I guess,” he said. The last American to wear the Vuelta leader’s jersey was winner Chris Horner in 2013.
- Sepp Kuss on the US off-road racing scene, living in Europe – and Keegan Swenson
- Larry Warbasse to stay with Ag2r Citroën through 2023
It depends how the race plays out and whether a large breakaway goes up the road. Jumbo-Visma sport director Grischa Niermann sounded a note of caution about the prospect.
“Here [in the Netherlands], the priority was absolutely to stay with Primož and keep him safe,” he said. “On a flat stage, it’s a little bit easier to decide who should take the jersey. On a finish like on Tuesday, it’s not that easy.”
“The boys all deserve a red jersey,” he added. “It would be nice if we had eight days, we could divide it, but that’s not the case.”
Jumbo-Visma juggernaut rolls on in Netherlands
Whatever transpires, Kuss is positioned fourth overall on the same time as leader Edoardo Affini and can reflect positively on the race’s opening three days.
“We avoided any trouble and a stage win, we can be super happy,” Kuss said.
“It was a bit less nervous [on stage 3] than yesterday, a bit better roads but it was a little bit windy,” he said. “Overall, it was pretty straightforward.”
Then there has been the impressive experience of racing for a Dutch team in their home country, one steeped in cycling culture.
“It’s been really nice: great crowds and it was good to win the first stage [TTT] with the team,” he said. “I think that was important for us, always a goal. And to have a new guy in the red jersey every day is really cool.”
Kuss’s plans for the race’s first rest day are simple: to lay around.
“It’s a rest day but you don’t really need it, so just kind of staying in the rhythm, I guess,” he said.
Open racing at Vuelta suits Kuss
Kuss has raced the Vuelta a España every year since turning pro with the squad back in 2018.
“It’s a race I really like. It’s a bit more open, it has relaxed moments, but it also has moments where you’re really racing, it can be a bit more unpredictable,” he said.
In terms of ambitions, Kuss is here to “do my best as far as possible, to help out, but if I can try and win a stage, that’s also nice to see.”
He already has one to his name, taking victory at Santuario del Acebo in 2019.
In terms of the bigger picture, he’ll be working towards a fourth consecutive Primož Roglič overall win.
“Primož is feeling good, he’s in a good mood and looking forward to the harder stages now,” he said.
Finally, Kuss has a new place to relax in when the Vuelta finishes, as he was busy moving house in Andorra after the Tour de France.
“It’s mostly done, so it feels good. I was really busy. Moving boxes and furniture, all that goes with that. It was harder than the Tour!”