Sepp Kuss closes in on Tour de France debut

Coloradan climber revs up for first-ever Tour with team training camp, leadership role at Vuelta a Burgos.

Photo: Getty Images

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Sepp Kuss is taking the first steps toward his debut Tour de France this week.

The young Coloradan is currently en route to Team Jumbo-Visma’s pre-season training camp in Tignes, France, where he will meet up with the eight others short-listed for this year’s Tour. Kuss’s two weeks in the Alps will mark his first stepping stone toward the Tour’s August 29 start after five long months away from racing.

Having spent the racing stop in Girona, Spain, and more recently relocating to the thin air of Andorra, the 25-year-old sees the Tour-focused camp primarily as a way to bond with his team before the pressure cooker of the racing season.

“I can train just as well solo, up here in Andorra,” Kuss told VeloNews earlier this week. “But without racing for most of the year, you miss the camaraderie and the team atmosphere, and most importantly, it’s good to get the group together and get a feel for each other, especially as we’re the Tour guys. Building that spirit will be important.

“We’ll have all the guys there, the nutritionists, directors, all of that – we will start to properly dial things in for August. It will feel like the first real step toward racing.”

The 2020 season marks a big year for Kuss, who is expected to race his first-ever Tour having tested his grand tour legs at last year’s Giro d’Italia, and twice at the Vuelta a España. That first taste of the Tour may be one cooled slightly by coronavirus controls, but the heat will still be on a boil aboard the Jumbo-Visma team bus as the Dutch squad looks to put an end to the long years of Team Sky/Ineos dominance in France.

With new-signing Tom Dumoulin still yet to race in Jumbo-Visma colors, Kuss will be given the opportunity to give the Dutch star his wheel for the first time at his team’s altitude camp. The young American is going to have to become accustomed to towing Dumoulin through the mountains in advance of riding in support of him, Primož Roglič, and Steven Kruijswijk at the Tour, and welcomes the chance to acclimate to his new leader.

“Tom’s an ambitious rider and he brings a lot to the team, and it will be good to ride with him,” Kuss said. “Getting time with him [in Tignes] will be helpful.”

After two weeks in the French Alps, the Colorado rider will be getting the race wheels turning for the first time since February when he heads up a youthful Jumbo-Visma team at the Vuelta a Burgos on July 28. He will be riding for results alongside George Bennett, who was recently added to Jumbo-Visma’s Tour squad. With grand tour top-10s on his palmarès, the 30-year-old Kiwi adds yet more climbing power to the team slated for France.

Kuss (far left) and Bennett (third left) will head up Jumbo-Visma at Burgos in advance of adding climbing firepower to the Tour lineup. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images.

The five-day race in Spain will give Kuss more racing time with Bennett before the Tour, and allow the budding GC star to add more leadership experience to his resume.

“It’ll be a good opportunity for George and me, we’ll be leading I think,” Kuss said in a telephone interview. “I haven’t heard explicitly but I think I’ll be likely in a free role – do what you can, there’s no pressure to win, and just see what you can do. And for me that that works out really well, that’s how I like to ride. I had a similar role already this year at Tour de Provence and had a good race there. And it will also be good to get racing time with George – we will both have a similar role in the mountains at the Tour.”

The pressure will be off Kuss at Vuelta a Burgos, but after that, the squeeze will begin. With key Tour warmup race the Critérium du Dauphiné next on his schedule, August 12-16, and just a week after that, the start of the Tour, Kuss’ climbing chops will be put to the test on the mountainous second stage right out of Nice.

“It comes fast — you think it’s always in the distance, but then all of a sudden, everything is here,” Kuss said. “In the winter the racing season feels ways off and then all of a sudden it’s coming closer and closer. But I’ve had a good few weeks up here in Andorra, I’m feeling good. I just want to get back to it.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.