Honing his early-season form at France’s Tour de la Provence this past week, he finished with many of the favorites on Mont Ventoux, and closed the race in eighth-place overall.
VeloNews: You must be pleased with your early-season condition. Okay Nairo Quintana was on another level, but you finished with Thibaut Pinot and most of the pre-race favorites on Mont Ventoux. At one point, it looked like you even tried to go with Quintana.
Sepp Kuss: Well I kind of exploded a little bit. Okay I did try to follow Nairo’s attack. I mean you might as well try. You have nothing to lose. But I did explode. Okay maybe if I had waited a bit I would have finished stronger, but in an early-season race like this I had nothing to lose. I have to be happy though. Usually I am pretty bad in the beginning of the season to be honest, and I never expected to be anywhere near this level so early in the year, without too much hard training.
VN: You’ve made amazing progress in a short amount of time as a World Tour rider, capped off by an amazing stage victory in the Vuelta a España last year on the Sanctuary of Acebo, on stage 15. What comes to mind when you think back on that day?
SK: Yeah it was pretty cool and honestly, unexpected. Before that stage I knew I was riding well but I wasn’t sure that it was good enough to win something. And to be honest, coming into the race, winning a stage wasn’t even an objective. But I made the most of the opportunity when I had it. And to come away with a stage victory, although it is quite surprising, was amazing. I worked hard for it though, and hopefully I can do something like that again this year.
VN: Yeah it was amazing. I mean when you look back on that final climb to the finish, you really had to pace yourself. Seven kilometers from the finish for example, you were behind, but you just consistently picked off the other riders until you finished alone in a memorable stage victory.
SK: Yeah on a climb that hard, you have to play it to your strengths and be patient. Timing is important and you have to make your move count when the time is right. The beginning of the climb was a lot harder, so you just had to pace yourself right.
VN: You’ve done the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España, and this year you are scheduled to ride the Tour de France.
SK: Yeah that’s the plan so far and most of the season is built around that. But I am also scheduled to ride the Vuelta again, so I have to save some batteries for later in the season. But knowing I am scheduled to ride the Tour is a big honor. It’s a huge race and I think it is a race that every rider dreams of doing. It’s motivating. And in the U.S., I think a lot of fans don’t know much cycling outside of the Tour, because that is what you see mostly. So doing the Tour makes being a cyclist more relatable for a lot of people.
VN: Your Jumbo-Visma team has evolved incredibly in the past couple of years and they have put together a powerhouse squad for the Tour. Obviously you have ridden a lot with one of the team’s big leaders Primož Roglič, both in the Giro and the Vuelta. What’s it like riding with Primož and working with him?
SK: It’s nice. He is really easy to get along with and he gives everything. Also we have some similarities. Although he has had a lot of success already, he is still pretty new to the sport and still learning. And that’s a lot like me. I’m still learning and figuring it out. So for me, it is really inspiring to see a guy like that who, compared to others, has little experience, doing so well. And then the fact that he can he can come up with the goods, is really inspiring when you are working for somebody.
VN: Well you guys have put together an amazing team for the Tour with Tom Dumoulin, Steven Kruijswijk and Roglic, all three grand tour winners or podium finishers. There must be a lot of excitement on the team.
SK: Yeah, the big goals are still a ways off, but we have a lot of guys, be it in the classics or the grand tours, that have real chance for success.
VN: What is your program this spring, leading up to the Tour?
SK: Well after the Tour de la Provence I am scheduled to do Volta Ciclista a Catalunya and the Tour de Romandie and the Critérium du Dauphiné.