Training

Power Analysis: Sepp Kuss at the 2020 Critérium du Dauphiné

We dive into the young Jumbo-Visma rider's astonishing power numbers from the Critérium du Dauphiné.

In the first few stages of the Critérium du Dauphiné, you could tell that Sepp Kuss (Jumbo–Visma) was one of the strongest riders in the race.

He first came to the fore on the Col de Porte, where we saw the Team Ineos train grinding away on the front of the peloton for their leader and last year’s Tour de France winner, Egan Bernal. Jonathan Castroviejo was the first rider to take his turn; then it was Kwiatkowski, Thomas, and finally Sivakov, who pulled for just a few hundred meters before being swallowed up by an attack from Emanuel Buchmann (Bora–Hansgrohe).

Kuss was immediately onto the German’s wheel, and in the next few pedal strokes, Kuss moved to the front, pulling hard for his team leader, Primož Roglič. Even an attack from Bernal could hardly put a dent in the pace being set by Kuss.

Inside 1 kilometer to go, Roglič attacked and went on to take the stage win. Kuss’ Stage 3 and 4 performances were equally impressive, but nothing compared to stage 5 when, on an epic day that saw the race completely turned on its head, Kuss won solo out of the breakaway to take his first win since stage 15 of the 2019 Vuelta a España.

In this column, we dive into Kuss’ astonishing power numbers from the Critérium du Dauphiné.

Sepp Kuss stats:
Height: 1.8m (5 ft. 9 in.)
Weight: 59kg (130 lbs.)
Age: 25

Wout van Aert (Jumbo–Visma) wore the yellow leader’s jersey after winning the opening stage of the Dauphiné, and so Jumbo–Visma rode on the front of the peloton for the majority of stage 2, keeping the breakaway on a tight leash as they approached the summit finish at the Col de Porte. The 133km stage was mostly flat apart from the summit finish, and the bump of the Côté Maillet coming with 35km to go.

There were no attacks from the field nor GC battles, yet the pace that Kuss and the peloton climbed the Côté Maillet would drop most amateurs in about 30 seconds.

Sepp Kuss Dauphine stage 2 power

Kuss – Côté Maillet:
Time: 18:06
Average Power: 342w (5.8w/kg)
Average Gradient: 8 percent

The Col de Porte began only a few kilometers later and in two parts, beginning with a steep ramp up the 2.3km Quaix-en-Chartreuse, followed by a quick descent, and then the long climb up to the finish. Ineos took control at the bottom of the climb, and attempted to grind everyone away like they had for the previous eight years.

Sat on the wheel, Kuss rode around 380-390w (6.4-6.6w/kg) for the majority of the climb. When the attacks start going around 3km to go, that number jumps up to over 7w/kg, and the front group is down to ten in a matter of moments.

Kuss – Col de Porte:
Time: 43:18
Average Power: 366w (6.2w/kg)
Average Gradient: 6.2 percent
Peak 30min: 385w (6.5w/kg)

Kuss – covering attacks in the final 3km on the Col de Porte:
Time: 4:21
Average Power: 419w (7.1w/kg)

The strength and composure of both Kuss and Roglič was a sight to see on the opening mountain stage of the Dauphiné, and one that they were happy to repeat on the following day.

Stage 3 looked to be a similar profile to the previous day, but instead of a ‘bump’ like the Côté Maillet, riders climbed up and over the Col de Madeleine – an epic climb peaking at 1,993m (6,500 ft.), the Madeleine averages 8.2 percent for 17.8 kilometers.

Italian Champion Davide Formolo (UAE–Team Emirates) attacked the breakaway at the bottom of the Madeleine to begin his incredible 60km solo escapade; and behind, the peloton kept it steady, with van Aert and Robert Gesink (Jumbo–Visma) doing the majority of work while Kuss sat in at a “comfortable” 5.3w/kg.

Sepp Kuss Dauphine stage 3 climb

Kuss – Col de Madeleine:
Time: 59:30
Average Power: 310w (5.3w/kg)
Average Gradient: 8 percent

The final climb of the Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, at 15.3km long at an average of 5.9 percent, was never going to be a huge threat to peloton implosion because of its shallow gradient, with the steepest sections being only 7-8 percent, and a number of flat sections and short downhills that allowed dropped riders to regroup and catch back on. That meant an easier ride for Kuss, who sat in the draft of his teammates – Steven Kruijswijk and Tom Dumoulin – until just 2km to go.

Kuss – Saint-Martin-de-Belleville:
Time: 34:04
Average Power: 335w (5.7w/kg)
Average Gradient: 5.7 percent

Final pull with 2km to go:
Time: 4:54
Average Power: 381w (6.5w/kg)

An attack from eventual Dauphiné winner Daniel Martínez (EF Pro Cycling) saw Kuss get spat out the back with 700m to go, but thanks to the incredible workload of his teammates, Roglič had plenty left in the legs to close the gap, and then win the sprint out of the group to take second on the stage and put more time into his GC rivals.

Stage 4 was set to be yet another day in the mountains, although the final climb to Megève was again unlikely to cause major splits with gradients of 4-6 percent . The day’s chaos began when it was announced that Bernal, sitting in 7th place overall, would not start the stage due to back problems. After a big early breakaway went, things seemed to be settling down until a number of riders crashed on a dangerous descent, including Kruijswijk and Buchmann. Roglič also went down, but was able to rejoin the peloton, even with his shorts torn open.

Kuss managed to avoid the crash, and with 45km to go, the peloton began the hors catégorie Montée de Bisanne, where Bahrain-McLaren drove the pace for their GC leader Mikel Landa. Kuss stayed in line with Dumoulin and Roglič as the group whittled down to less than 10 riders.

Kuss – Montée de Bisanne:
Time: 35:47
Average Power: 344w (5.8w/kg)
Average Gradient: 8.1 percent
Peak 20min Power: 352w (6w/kg)

A long descent and lots of look-arounds led a few handfuls of riders catching back on to the Kuss–Roglič group, including van Aert and Gesink, which left little work for Kuss to do in the finale. Kuss stayed in the wheels all the way to the finish line, producing a fine effort in the final couple of kilometers to finish on Roglič’s wheel and 11th on the stage.

Kuss – Stage 4 – final 3km:
Time: 6:20
Average Power: 353w (6w/kg)
Average Gradient: 4.7 percent
Peak 90s Power: 462w (7.8w/kg)

Due to the injuries he sustained in stage 4’s crash, Roglič pulled out of the Dauphiné while leading the General Classification. With Bernal and Roglič both out of the race, that gave free rein to the über-strong Ineos and Jumbo-Visma riders that had been pulling all day for their leaders. What we saw was one of the most exciting and chaotic finales in recent history – non-stop attacks from kilometer zero, stacked breakaways, and a virtual GC board that looked like you were picking numbers out of a lottery machine.

After 20km of racing, the peloton hit the Côte de Domancy for the first time – a 2.4km climb averaging 8.4 percent. With no big team in control, attacks flew left and right, and Kuss put in a mammoth effort to stay at the front of the group which was already down to less than 15 riders.

Kuss – First time up the Côte de Domancy:
Time: 6:46
Average Power: 442w (7.5w/kg)

The race broke up again on the hors catégorie Col de Romme and Col de la Colombière, which came in quick succession after just 50km of racing. Kuss stayed in the GC group as attacks flew and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) went up the road.

Kuss – Col de Romme:
Time: 26:46
Average Power: 376w (6.4w/kg)
Average Gradient: 9.1 percent

Kuss – Col de la Colombière:
Time: 22:45
Average Power: 348w (5.9w/kg)
Average Gradient: 8.1 percent
Peak 20min Power: 352w (6w/kg)

Eventually, a two-man breakaway formed – Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck—Quick-Step) and Sivakov – and the GC group calmed down a bit until the final 30km. From there, it was almost all uphill to the finish: a second trip up the Côte de Domancy, followed by the Côte de Cordon, and then the final 9km climb to Megève.

Kuss attacked the GC group on the Côte de Domancy, averaging over 7w/kg for seven minutes while attempting to bridge to the breakaway group.

Kuss – Second time up the Côte de Domancy:
Time: 7:00
Average Power: 423w (7.2w/kg)
Peak 4min Power: 451w (7.5w/kg)
Peak 2min Power: 473w (8w/kg)

Kuss caught the breakaway at the bottom of the Côte de Cordon, then followed the attacks of Tadej Pogačar (UAE–Team Emirates) and Martínez who had also made their way to the breakaway in the previous 10km. Sivakov put in a dig at the bottom of the final climb, the Montée de l’altiport, but Kuss immediately closed the gap. After just a few pedal strokes of rest, Kuss counterattacked, peaking at over 700w (11.9w/kg) and putting some distance into the rest of his break-mates.

Even with the best climbers in the world breathing down his neck, Kuss continued to extend his gap all the way to the finish, crossing the line 27 seconds ahead of Martínez who won the GC ahead of the valiant Thibaut Pinot (Groupama–FDJ).

Sepp Kuss Dauphine stage 5 attack

Kuss – Solo attack to win stage 5:
Time: 19:47
Average Power: 360w (6.1w/kg)
Peak 1min Power: 525w (8.9w/kg)

The numbers that Kuss produced throughout this year’s Dauphiné, and especially on the final stage, are unlike any that I have ever seen. I triple-checked his data as best I could, cross-referenced it with other riders’ data such as Rigoberto Urán (EF Pro Cycling) and Chris Froome (Ineos), and even compared it to VAM-based (VAM stands for velocità ascensionale media, which translates to “average ascent speed”) predictions, which estimate a rider’s power-to-weight ratio on a given climb.

All of his numbers checked out. Sepp Kuss can climb.

Sepp Kuss Dauphine stage 5 full route

Kuss – Full Stage 5:
Time: 4:23:14
Average Power: 271w (4.6w/kg)
Normalized Power: 324w (5.5w/kg)