Sepp Kuss: ‘No need to panic’ at Vuelta a España

American climber plays down losses to Remco Evenepoel in decisive GC salvo.

Photo: Tim de Waele / Getty Images

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CAMARGO, Spain (VN) — Sepp Kuss faced a flank of microphones at the start of Friday’s seventh stage a day after Remco Evenepoel ripped the legs off the peloton with one clear message — the Vuelta a España is long and far from over.

Jumbo-Visma’s Primož Roglič couldn’t match Evenepoel and Enric Mas when the pair bolted clear of the bunch, and the three-time defending Vuelta champion was forced to limit the losses.

Kuss reminded everyone that the Vuelta still faces its hardest and most difficult challenges in the coming two weeks.

“The gaps are bigger than they would be normally. It wasn’t the best day, but it wasn’t the end of anything,” Kuss said. “It’s just the first mountain stage, and there’s a lot of the race left.”

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When asked if Jumbo-Visma should panic following Thursday’s setback, Kuss was emphatic:

“Oh, no, there’s a long way to go,” he said. “There’s still this weekend in Asturias, a long time trial, and some hard mountain stages. Anything can happen.”

Kuss: ‘Remco was really strong’

Remco Evenepoel powered into the Vuelta’s leader’s jersey following a searing attack Thursday. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

The team paddock was abuzz Friday morning in Cantabria in the aftermath of Thursday’s thrilling stage through the rain and miss at Pico Jano.

The climb wasn’t necessarily that steep or long, but Evenepoel took full advantage to throw down a piercing attack that saw him take more than one minute on Roglič and the chasing GC favorites to move into the red jersey.

Kuss tipped his hat at the Belgian, but cautioned about reading too much into one mountain finale where Roglič struggled a bit to match the winning pace.

“Overall we have room to improve, but it was an OK day,” Kuss said. “Remco did a really good performance, but I think for Primož, to be a bit behind, he still did a good ride, but Remco was really strong. And once he has a gap on those gradients he can keep a high pace.

“It’s still a good position for us,” Kuss said. “We can lean on the other teams a bit more, and play the race tactically a bit different if the situation is there.

“There is still so much left and so many hard stages when we can do different things, we still feel really good.”

Kuss: ‘I struggled a bit in the rain’

Roglič rode to limit the losses on Pico Jano and led the GC group across the line. (Photo by DAVID STOCKMAN/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

Roglič was forced to race without his usual wingman after Kuss struggled to match the pace of the GC favorites in cold rain and fog.

He finished fifth to lead the GC chasers at 1:37 back, with Jay Vine taking the win, and Evenepoel and Mas crossing the line at 15 seconds back, and Juan Ayuso finishing fourth at 55 seconds back.

Kuss, who was eighth overall in last year’s Vuelta, came through 19th at 2:32 back, about one minute behind the Roglič GC group.

“I still feel good, and I will get better. Yesterday I didn’t have the best day, and I suffered a bit in the rain, but that’s how it goes for me a bit on the first summit finishes,” Kuss said.

“It’s always hard because every race you think you know what’s coming, but in the Vuelta it can always be a surprise. You never know how hard each stage can be.

“If you look at the route it doesn’t look like a normal Vuelta,” he said. “There are not so many long, steeper climbs, or multi-climb big stages. It still depends on the race. Yesterday was an important stage with the gaps and sometimes you can see those without any crazy gradients.”

Kuss: ‘Primož did what he could’

Kuss said Roglič is on good form despite the hiccup Thursday, and that the team firmly believes it’s racing to win what would be a historic first of four consecutive Vuelta victories.

“For sure he didn’t have the ideal run into the race, he wouldn’t be here unless he knew he had a good chance,” Kuss said.

“With that said, Remco and some of the others, they had an exceptional performance, and the time gap, in the end, was a result of that, but I think Primož, he did what he could,” Kuss said. “It was still a good ride. He pushed all the way to the line, even when there were a lot of guys on his wheel, to limit the differences.”

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