Can Sepp Kuss join Brandon McNulty in the US stage-winner club during this Giro d’Italia?
Time and race dynamics are tilting away from Kuss, and his chances to become just the third US rider to win stages in all three grand tours.
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Brandon McNulty joined elite company Sunday with his Giro d’Italia stage victory.
The Arizonan rode a magnificently played finale to out-kick Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) to snag the biggest win of his young career.
“It’s an indescribable feeling. It was my big goal coming here to take a stage,” McNulty said Sunday. “We came here for GC and the goal of me going for a stage win so now it’s in the bag we can fully focus on the GC.”
The victory made him just the 12th American to win a stage at the Italian grand tour.
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With a fistful of stages left, can Sepp Kuss join the club?
Time might be running out, especially with Jumbo-Visma boss Primož Roglič ceding time in Tuesday’s key mountaintop finale.
Just as the race dynamics and team ambitions swung McNulty’s way Sunday, they might be working against Kuss as this Giro pedal toward the final weekend.
In his previous Giro start in 2019, Kuss struggled to fight through the Italian tour, only to spring for a stage win in the Vuelta a España later that season.
A victory at the 2021 Tour gives Kuss victories in two of the three grand tours, and Farrar and Hamilton remain the only U.S. riders to win stages in all three grand tours.
Racing dynamics might be working against Kuss in this Giro, however.
So far, Kuss has been saving his matches for the decisive final week. He rode into one breakaway in the second week but didn’t go all-in to chase the stage win.
On Tuesday, Kuss played the loyal teammate and paced the struggling Roglič all the way to the line.
In an ideal situation, Kuss would have the freedom to chase a stage win if Roglič was solidly in the lead.
With Roglič now chasing at 29 seconds back, however, Kuss will be leaned on to be the last man on the climbs, especially Friday on the summit finale at Tre Cime.
That stage would normally be ideal for Kuss’s featherweight finesse, but with Roglič still chasing a podium spot and the Giro far from decided, the race dynamics might tilt away from him.
The ultimate domestique – on and off the bike 💪
Find someone who looks after you like Sepp Kuss looks after Primož Roglič 🥰
🇮🇹 #Giro pic.twitter.com/99AyUArGnV
— Velon CC (@VelonCC) May 23, 2023
Jumbo-Visma sport director Marc Reef confirmed Roglič is still racing to win the pink jersey, and that means Kuss will be expected to pull.
“We decided to take control and ride a solid pace on the final climb,” Reef said. “Primož rode completely empty with Sepp. The first three riders are within half a minute of each other. We lost a battle here, but certainly not the war. There is still a lot to come over the next few days, so we have confidence in the best possible outcome. In the coming days, we will utilize the team’s qualities to fight for victory.”
If Roglič completely blows, that could open the door for Kuss to bet everything on a race-saving stage victory, but time could be running out.
The climbing time trial Saturday could be another chance for Kuss, but again with the GC still undecided, the others will be giving everything for a spot at the podium.
American stage-winners at the Giro d’Italia
Americans have a rich history at the Giro, from the pioneering squad Gianni Motta-Linea M.D. Italia and the 7-Eleven team in the 1980s. Though Greg LeMond is more linked to the Tour de France, he reached the Giro podium with third in 1985.
The first U.S. rider to win a Giro was Ron Kiefel. He was part of the ragtag 7-Eleven team in 1985 and kicked to victory in stage 15 into Perugia, a groundbreaking victory that stands as the first American grand tour stage victory.
Next was LeMond, who won a Giro stage in 1986 when he raced the “corsa rosa” ahead of his history-making Tour de France victory later that summer.
Long associated with the Tour, LeMond raced the Giro seven times, finishing once on the podium, with third in 1985 behind then-teammate Bernard Hinault and Francesco Moser, and fourth in 1986.
And then there was Andy Hampsten — also a winner of a stage in the breakout 1985 Giro — who won two stages en route to his mythic victory in the 1988 Giro.
Riding in the snow over the Gavia in one of the Giro’s standout moments, Hampsten secured the pink jersey, and remains the only American to win the Italian grand tour.
American stage-winners at the Giro d’Italia
2023 stage 15, Seregno to Bergamo — Brandon McNulty
2021 stage 4, Piacenza to Sestola — Joe Dombrowski
2019 stage 21, Verona-Verona — Chad Haga
2017 stage 18, Moena to Ortisei/St. Urlich — Tejay Van Gaarderen
2012 stage 1, Herning-Herning — Taylor Phinney
2010 stage 10, Avellino to Bitonto — Tyler Farrar
2010 stage 2, Amsterdam to Utrecht — Farrar
2005 stage 8, Lamporecchio to Firenze — David Zabriskie
2004 stage 9, Policoro to Carovigno — Fred Rodriguez
2002 stage 14, Numana-Numana — Tyler Hamilton
1988 stage 18, Levico Terme to Vetriolo Terme — Andrew Hampsten
1988 stage 12, Novara to Selvino — Hampsten
1986 stage 5, Nicotera to Cosenza — Greg LeMond
1985 stage 20, Saint-Vincent to Valnontey di Cogne — Hampsten
1985 stage 15, l’Aquila to Perugia — Ron Kiefel
Unlike what some people believe, Hampsten didn’t win the famous Gavia stage. Instead, Erik Breukink won that day, with Hampsten winning on two other occasions during that Giro.
Tyler Hamilton, David Zabriskie, and Fred Rodriguez all won stages throughout the 2000s, with Tyler Farrar, Taylor Phinney, and Tejay van Garderen winning during the following decade.
Chad Haga also joined the club when he won the final-day time trial in Verona in 2019.
Coming into this year’s Giro, Joe Dombrowski was the latest U.S. stage winner when he won out of a breakaway in 2021.