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The off-season means different things for different riders. For some, it’s six weeks of boxsets, bingeing and beers after a season of severe dieting and training toward burnout.
Not so for Sepp Kuss.
The Coloradan climbing sensation spends his early winter riding trails, hiking up mountains, and adventuring to Colombia.
So why no slouching on the sofa and hiding away the bike? Because Kuss keeps his stoke for cycling 12 months a year by embracing a little of everything in moderation.
“I think some people start the season and they’re super-motivated after a total break because that’s their process. But I’m more motivated when I can actually do fun mountain bike rides in the summer and go on cool adventures all year,” Kuss told VeloNews.
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Speaking while waiting to fly to the Netherlands for mandatory health checks with his Jumbo-Visma teammates, Kuss explained how his free-flowing approach to life in the WorldTour maintains his mojo and keeps him moving, no matter what the season.
“I like to stay active in the off-season. If I spend more than a few days not doing anything, then I don’t really feel that good or happy. I’d always rather go out and hike or run or ride the mountain bike – it’s a really nice time of year to be outside,” he said over the phone.
“I don’t finish the season tired of the bike necessarily, it’s more just being tired from the travel and the racing and everything. It means I still have the motivation to ride all the time – I just enjoy riding.”
Six seasons as a pro haven’t dented Kuss’ boyhood love of bikes.
It’s a long-time passion that’s led him to stage wins at the Tour de France and Vuelta a España as well as becoming wingman number-one for Primož Roglič during the Slovenian’s to the top of the GC hierarchy.
For Kuss, riding bikes is fun, and it will be that way whether he’s paid to do it or not. And staying happy makes sure it stays like that.
Have fun, keep hungry
Unlike most years, Kuss has been unable to return home to Durango so far this fall. COVID restrictions saw Kuss instead welcome his parents to Andorra for some two months after what had been a two-year separation.
In the time since Kuss closed his season with a string of one-day races, he’s mixed Spanish family tourism with solo mountain bike missions, hill hikes with his girlfriend, and a fair serving of steaks – though a big serve of beef isn’t that unusual for the 135-pound climber.
Despite his lean, mean frame, Kuss eats what he wants, when he wants.
A scroll through his social media and you can see that steak and champagne is as much a theme as racing and training.
Kuss’ all-embracing approach prevents mid-season burnout and off-season overload and sums up his whole outlook.
“My diet doesn’t vary too much from the off-season to the normal season. I always try to enjoy everything that I want to – I don’t cut certain things off or limit certain things,” he said.
“If I’m training normally then my weight is more or less fine without doing anything crazy. Of course, you have to moderate a little bit and not be an idiot about what you’re eating. But in general, I’d rather be happy and enjoy food than not. Food is half the reason you get out and ride your bike!”
Enjoyment is everything for the 27-year-old Coloradan.
It’s an ethos that throws a grain of salt in the notion that life at the top of the sport is about abstinence and single-minded pursuit of a goal, no matter what.
Kuss, a former collegiate national mountain bike champion, still indulges his love of all-things off-road whenever he feels a thirst for the trail.
“I mostly mountain bike in the off-season, but I like to do it quite a bit during the season as well – just to keep the skills sharp and have fun,” he said.
‘Variety is the spice of life’ they say, and Kuss fully endorses that. Daylong off-road adventures throwing back to a youth riding the Colorado trail are sprinkled through the year as he sees fit.
“After some races or long training camps, I find myself saying, ‘OK, I can’t wait to go to this area and ride these trails,’” he said. “It always gives you a different hunger for the bike.”
‘It was never a dream to be in this profession. But now that I’m in it, I realize how special it is’
The off-season is drawing to a rapid close for Kuss.
After health tests with Jumbo-Visma this week, Kuss will be jetting to Colombia, where he will enjoy one last adventure helping to lead a bikepacking trip out of Medellín. It’s a prospect that would make a more saddle-weary rider shudder.
From Colombia, it’s a few weeks back home in Durango before a return to Europe for pre-season training camps and a final click back into race mode.
Whether he’s rolling around in Colombia in the off-season or ripping up the Volta a Catalunya in the spring, there’s a sense that Sepp will be loving every minute he’s in the saddle.
“It was never a dream to be in this profession. But now that I’m in it, I realize how special it is and unique it is, and I try and embrace that and everything that it brings,” he said.
“And at the end of the day, I get to ride my bike and don’t have to go to work at an office on a nine-to-five so that’s not so bad. That enjoyment of riding keeps me motivated, whether it’s racing or off-season.”