Sepp Kuss embraces ‘unique opportunity’ of surprise Giro d’Italia call-up
Coloradan relishes challenge of his first Giro since 2019 after his season was turned upside down by late addition to Primož Roglič's support crew.
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Sepp Kuss isn’t fazed by seeing his season turned upside down.
After he started the year expecting a slow spring ahead of a Tour de France–Vuelta a España summer, the Coloradan is having to pull a very abrupt mid-season U-Turn.
Kuss saw a surprise call to saddle up with Primož Roglič at the Giro d’Italia derail his season roadmap and tilt all his expectations for 2023 on their axis.
But like always, Kuss is as cool as ever as he braces for a rare pink-toned spring.
“Going back to the Giro, it’s super exciting,” Kuss told VeloNews. “When I found out from the team they needed me, it was kind of unexpected at first.
“But the more I thought about it, it’s a unique opportunity to do a super cool race, and a super hard race, and one where we have big ambition. And after three years of always doing the Tour and Vuelta, it’s good to change things up.”
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When Jumbo-Visma’s GC contender and domestique de luxe Wilco Kelderman crashed out of Tirreno-Adriatico and lost weeks of training time, it was super-climber Kuss that was top of the team’s list of beyond-category wingmen for Roglič at the “corsa rosa.”
Next month’s Italian tour will mark both Kuss and Roglič’s first Giro in four years, and a continuation of the twosome’s long racing relationship.
Kuss and Roglič will be at the center of Jumbo-Visma’s ambition to win its first maglia rosa next month.
The powerhouse team faces some of the fiercest possible opposition in its Italian quest to claim a fifth grand tour in five years – the Belgian wreckin’ ball that is Remco Evenepoel.
“There’s a lot of motivation for the team, and for me, at the Giro,” Kuss said in a call to Tenerife’s Parador hotel last week.
“Going there with Primož, we know we have a guy that’s going to be fighting for the win. I think that brings out all the best in all of us that are there to support him. Especially when we know we’re going against a guy as strong as Remco.”
Putting training on fast-forward on the flanks of Teide
VeloNews spoke to Kuss last week while he wound down from a four-hour training ride with his Jumbo-Visma teammates on the flanks of Mount Teide.
After only 14 days of racing this season, Kuss is set to spend a total of three weeks in the thin air of Tenerife’s volcano.
It’s a high-altitude boot camp designed to click his climbing legs into top gear for the May 6 “grande partenza” – an Abruzzo TT that redlines his season a full two months earlier than his former Tour de France startline.
“I felt pretty good already this season, but I hadn’t done the hard focussed training that I would do before the Tour. So now with the Giro, I had to accelerate the training quite a bit,” he said.
“It was a shock at first getting into it, but I feel good now.”
Kuss already raced the UAE and Catalunya tours this year and had been initially slated to start this week’s Tour de Romandie.
With the Giro now on his schedule, he’s instead pedaling through a grand tour workload on Teide with his Giro-bound teammates.
The 28-year-old so far amassed around 2,100km and 47,000m vert into the past two-and-a-half weeks of high-altitude training.
“I already feel good, and it’s motivating when you can go to a race and know you’re well prepared,” he said. “For me, mentally I want to be able to go to a race and know I can give my best. So far from this camp, I feel I’m getting to that point.”
A grand tour triple? ‘Anything is possible’
Kuss has been an integral part of Jumbo-Visma’s grand tour plans since he joined the team in 2018.
He helped Roglič to what was a breakout podium finish at the 2019 Giro, partnered the Slovenian through his three Vuelta a España victories, and helped Jonas Vingegaard secure Jumbo-Visma’s first Tour de France title last summer.
“I guess I see it as a good sign the team called on me first,” he joked about his Giro surprise. “It’s always motivating to be given that confidence.”
Kuss remains on Jumbo-Visma’s long list for the Tour and seems a shoo-in for the team’s yellow jersey defense.
But the Vuelta?
It’s a race Kuss relishes as his adopted “home” grand tour and one he feels brings him to his best.
“I always like doing the Vuelta, and I always feel like I go well there with that weather and being later in the season,” he said.
“This year, there’s quite a lot of time in between each grand tour. On paper, anything is possible,” Kuss said of a grand tour triple. “I just have to approach it one race at a time.”
‘Evenepoel is a huge rival’
A return to the Giro next month puts Kuss in a unique position.
He already won a stage at the 2019 Vuelta and 2021 Tour. A “W” in Italy could see the Durangan become one of a small band of active riders to claim victory across all three grand tours.
But Kuss knows his attention will be elsewhere as he helps Roglič beat back Evenepoel, who will land into Italy roaring hot after his steamrollering Liège-Bastogne-Liège defense.
“Remco’s a huge rival,” Kuss said. “But there are always other guys that can surprise you. You can’t discount anybody.”
Evenepoel and Roglič will line up as joint favorites for the pink jersey in a field flooded with outsiders like Tao Geoghegan Hart, Alexander Vlasov, and João Almeida.
But Jumbo-Visma knows who it will have to watch closest after Roglič and Kuss only narrowly bettered Quick-Step’s bombastic Belgian at the Tour of Catalunya last month.
“From the races he’s done so far, Remco seems to be a notch above the other guys,” Kuss said. “For sure, Remco is going to be a big, big opponent.”
With Evenepoel looking almost unstoppable, Roglič will no doubt be glad to see climber king Kuss at his side next month.