SIENA, Italy (VN) — Sepp Kuss is already embracing his first ride in the WorldTour ranks with Team LottoNL-Jumbo, getting his feet wet in top races and learning from experienced professionals like Steven Kruijswijk and George Bennett.
The Colorado native was one of two Americans to join the Dutch WorldTour team this winter with Neilson Powless. The 21-year-old Powless came from Hagens Berman Axeon and Kuss moved up from Rally Cycling.
LottoNL-Jumbo “showed in the past that they can develop guys, especially those without a huge background in cycling like [former ski jumper] Primoz Roglic,” the 23-year-old Kuss told VeloNews.
“They’ve done a really good job giving their young guys really good races and a steady program that’s a mix of high-level races and races where they have their own chances. It was definitely a no-brainer to join LottoNL-Jumbo. It’s really a good group.”
Kuss made a rapid rise to the WorldTour ranks. After a mountain bike sponsorship fell through, he tried road racing. In 2016, he climbed to victory in the queen stages at the Redlands Bicycle Classic and the Tour de Beauce. The following season, he placed 10th in the Amgen Tour of California’s Mt. Baldy stage and was sixth overall in the Colorado Classic, nestled between Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) and Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing).
“It’s definitely a big step up, of course the racing is a huge step up, and the infrastructure of the team is a big step up,” Kuss said. All those things you appreciate, like having a bus and having a warm shower to go back to on a day like today. In Rally, we didn’t have that!”
Kuss spoke Saturday at the start of what could be one of the most memorable versions of Strade Bianche. Snow and heavy rains turned the gravel roads into soupy mud.
“These courses are so much more demanding, the roads are narrower, you have to earn your respect in the peloton to move around more easily,” said Kuss. “I am definitely still learning.”
Kuss’s 2018 program includes the Vuelta País Vasco and North American races like the Tour of California.
“I looking forward to some of the stage races. All the races I do, aside from California and Utah, will be totally new to me. I just want to learn as much as I can and figure out which races are best for me and help our leaders as much as I can,” continued Kuss.
“For results, I’ll look at California and Utah. Those are more in my comfort zone. For the European races, it’s just about learning and getting used to riding with the team and these super-hard races, and next year shoot for results.”
The team plans to ease the Americans in gradually, as neither rider is slated to start a grand tour this year.
LottoNL sport director Merijn Zeeman said, “We’ll give them a chance to race step-by-step, without too much pressure. The most important is that they have a good development plan. We believe [Kuss] has big potential to become a great climber. Powless is a future GC rider. It’s always difficult to know how far they can go, but we believe he can progress into a GC rider.”