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Sepp Kuss to see leadership chances in 2021

Budding American star will see protected role at Volta a Catalunya and perhaps at Vuelta a España as he takes next step in career.

Many believe Sepp Kuss could become America’s next breakout GC star.

After emerging as one of the world’s best climbing domestiques, the 26-year-old Coloradan will get his first chances at leadership in 2021. Jumbo-Visma officials confirmed Friday that Kuss will get his opportunities to lead in select one-week stage races and perhaps in the Vuelta a España later this season.

“I think so,” he said in a team interview about taking the next step in his progression. “Either leading or a being co-leader. For me, it doesn’t matter as long as I have the opportunity to at least try, and I can do it in a calm way.”

His first chance could come in the weeklong Volta a Catalunya in March, with the Vuelta as a possibility in August after a return to the Tour de France as part of Jumbo-Visma‘s strong team.

“Hopefully Volta a Catalunya, it’s a pretty good race for me. There are a lot of climbs at altitude, and there’s a time trial in there as well, but I’ve been working on that in the winter,” he said in a video interview released by the team. “I hope to improve a bit there.”

Kuss said he’s uncertain of his full calendar, but signaled a return to the Tour and possibly a shot at co-leading at the Vuelta, where he’s already won a stage in 2019 and finished 16th overall in 2020.

“I think the Tour and the Vuelta after that,” Kuss said. “For myself, the Vuelta is the race I am looking forward to. It’s a race that suits me and it’s a race I really enjoy. As co-leader role? I think so, with it being that late in the season, we’ll see what happens. There could always be changes in the roster and see how I come out of the Tour, but it’s an objective that’s exciting to have.”

As Kuss has said in earlier interviews, he repeated that he remains uncertain about exactly what kind of racer he will evolve into in the coming years. After finishing 15th in the 2020 Tour riding as a lead domestique, many say Kuss has the all-around skills to deserve more support from a team.

“It’s hard to say,” Kuss said about his GC future. “Obviously I like the grand tours, but if I am realistic, I still have a lot to work on to be able to contend for the grand tours. Step by step, see how things go in weeklong races, and also see if I enjoy that kind of mindset or pressure in those races. It’s just a matter of figuring that out and taking the time to do it.”

Still discovering his limits in the WorldTour

A former collegiate mountain biker, Kuss burst onto the U.S. scene in 2016 and 2017, riding with Rally Cycling. He jumped to the WorldTour in 2018 with Jumbo-Visma, and quickly made his mark by winning two stages and the overall at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. He later lit up the climbs at the Vuelta riding in support of Primoz Roglič, which helped him secure a spot on the team’s powerful Tour de France squad in 2019.

Kuss followed up his impressive Tour debut with a stage victory during the 2019 Vuelta while helping Roglič win the overall. By 2020, Kuss had emerged as one of the top climbers in the peloton and was often the last rider in the decisive climbs at the 2020 Tour who was not a fully designated team captain.

“I feel different, I’ve learned a lot,” Kuss said of his first years in the WorldTour. “Through that, I have more confidence in myself, and the confidence in knowing I can be there with some of the best riders.”

Kuss said he’s even surprising himself and refuses to put a limit on how far he can go, but also trying to tamp down some of the hype about his future.

“That’s something I never envisioned when I started, and I am still figuring things out, figuring out what kind of rider I am,” he said. “For me, it’s also exciting because I never had any predisposed idea, at least when I started my career, of what I wanted to do in the sport. It’s nice to still be figuring that out, but I’ve definitely matured along the way.”

That process looks to continue in 2021, with even more ambitious goals.

Sepp Kuss winning a stage during the 2019 Vuelta a España. Justin Setterfield/Getty Images