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Sepp Kuss in line for Tour de France debut

Jumbo-Visma will count on Coloradan climber to back the team's growing GC ambitions.

Sepp Kuss is poised to make his Tour de France debut this year for what will be a very deep Jumbo-Visma lineup.

Jumbo-Visma officials confirmed Monday that Kuss, 25, is on the team’s Tour de France short list, and if things don’t change, the ever-improving U.S. rider will be racing when the rescheduled Tour starts August 29 in Nice, France.

“He will be one of our key helpers in the hard stages in the mountains,” Jumbo-Visma sport director Grischa Niermann told VeloNews. “We are working to make sure he will have great shape for the Tour de France.”

Jumbo-Visma officials have already revealed an ambitious squad for the 2020 Tour, with Primoz Roglic, Tom Dumoulin and Steven Kruijswijk poised to share leadership. George Bennett was recently penciled in for the Tour team following health issues for Belgian climber Laurens De Plus (who has been linked in a deal to join Team Ineos next season), with Kuss, Tony Martin, Wout Van Aert and Robert Gesink expected to round out the team’s “Tour Eight” for 2020.

The team is so committed to challenging for the yellow jersey that it is leaving home its ace sprinter Dylan Groenewegen, and instead lining up with a balanced team to take on Team Ineos for the Tour’s top spot.

The presence of Kuss on Jumbo-Visma’s Tour start-list — who will be the Tour team’s youngest rider by two days to Van Aert — reveals the team’s growing confidence in the Coloradan climbing protege.

Kuss joined the Dutch team in 2018, and made his grand tour debut that year at the Vuelta a España. Last year, he earned even more confidence within the team by racing in support of Roglic at the Giro d’Italia, where the Slovenian finished third overall, and later at the Vuelta, which Roglic won in dominant fashion. Kuss emerged as one of Roglic’s most consistent climbers in the mountains, and capped his Vuelta performance with a stage victory in stage 15, his first pro win in Europe.

“On his good days, he is already a world-class climber,” Niermann said. “And with his history in mountain biking and Nordic skiing, he will get even better with not so many years racing on the road.”

Kuss will join his teammates in Tignes, France, for a high-altitude training camp before a return to racing, with the Vuelta a Burgos (July 28-August 1) as the first race on Kuss’s revised 2020 calendar. The team’s Tour squad will all see racing before heading to the Tour in late August. In an interview last week, Kuss expressed his desire to keep progressing at the WorldTour level.

“He is in a good place to keep developing and will get even better,” Niermann said. “He still has a lot to learn, and he’s still a young guy. We have seen that he is often one of the last climbers there when there are only six riders left.”

And he won’t have to worry about traveling back to Europe. Why? The Coloradan climber never left during the coronavirus shutdown.

While some of his compatriots returned to the United States, and are now worried about possibly getting stuck there, Kuss has been hunkered down in Spain, and will join his Jumbo-Visma teammates at their camp in the French Alps next week.