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Vuelta a Espana

Sepp Kuss leaves Vuelta a España with fever in hammerblow to Primož Roglič title defense

Kuss piloted Roglič through the Slovenian's three rides to red jersey and helped tow Jonas Vingegaard to top of the Tour de France.

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Sepp Kuss exited the Vuelta a España and left Primož Roglič without invaluable climbing support Sunday.

Jumbo-Visma confirmed Kuss had seen the final day of what was his fifth Vuelta.

“Unfortunately Sepp Kuss won’t take the start of stage 9 due to fever,” the team wrote. “Get well soon, Sepp!”

The Colorado climber’s early exit is his first DNF in nine grand tour starts and a crushing blow for Roglič in his quest to win a historic fourth red jersey.

Kuss gave Roglič his wheel through the past three Vueltas as well as during the Slovenian’s derailed challenges at the Tour de France. He also proved crucial in the Jumbo-Visma mountain train during Jonas Vingegaard’s ride to the yellow jersey this summer.

“For some things we don’t have control, and we wish him to be better soon,” Roglič told reporters Sunday morning. “We all know what he meant for us, but we have to go on now without him. It’s a new day, new challenges.”

Roglič starts stage 9 on Sunday third overall, 1:01 back on red jersey Remco Evenpoel.

The Jumbo-Visma captain marked the Belgian in the Asturian mountains but looks a few watts from full power after his Tour de France injury and subsequent layoff.

Evenepoel also lost a key mountain helper Sunday when experienced climber Pieter Serry returned a positive test for COVID. Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious) also exited for the same reason, marking the eighth and ninth cases in this year’s Vuelta.

Kuss, 27, rode into this Vuelta off the back of a career-topping eighth overall at last summer’s race.

He suffered in the misty chills of stage 6 and was again absent in the final of Saturday’s eighth stage, but had been confident his best was yet to come.

“I still feel good, and I will get better. Yesterday I didn’t have the best day, and I suffered a bit in the rain, but that’s how it goes for me a bit on the first summit finishes,” Kuss told VeloNews on Friday.

“It’s always hard because every race you think you know what’s coming, but in the Vuelta it can always be a surprise. You never know how hard each stage can be.”

Jumbo-Visma provided no further detail about Kuss’ condition.

The Dutch team will now look to Chris Harper, Sam Oomen, Robert Gesink, and Rohan Dennis to shoulder some extra burden when the Vuelta points uphill.