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Sepp Kuss may only have three grand tours under his belt so far, but at age 25, he has the time to race many more – and he feels he has the potential to step onto the podium along the way.
Having found his grand tour groove at last summer’s Vuelta a España, netting a stage win and playing a key role in Primoz Roglič’s overall victory, Kuss fancies himself as the protected rider – but knows he has things to improve first.
“Eventually I hope to be a grand tour contender,” Kuss told Ciclismo International. “Physically, I think I can cope with racing for three weeks and it suits me, but what I need to work on the most is keeping the incredible focus for a whole grand tour.
“As a support rider, you can mentally switch off a bit on days that aren’t as crucial, but going for GC it’s a complete different mentality. That’s something I still have to learn, and it’s not normal for me to be nervous all the time, so I would have to do it in a way where I could be a ‘relaxed’ leader.”
Jumbo-Visma has many cooks in the kitchen with its three nominated leaders. With top-10 Giro d’Italia and Vuelta finisher George Bennett also added to Jumbo-Visma’s Tour roster last week, the Dutch team has yet more firepower and a wildcard to play in the GC battle this summer.
Kuss isn’t concerned by the crowded house at his team as he looks to his longer-term career goals, and sees no object to leading Jumbo-Visma in future. Like rivals Team Ineos, the Dutch squad will be “letting the road decide” who is protected man at the Tour, and that’s a system that Kuss would relish should he have the opportunity to step up someday.
“I think so,” Kuss said when asked if he has the potential to lead his team. “At the end of the day, you just need to be the best, right? Also, I would function better going into a race with multiple leaders. There would be a bit less pressure and I could be more free in the race instead of having seven guys looking after me all the time which can be stressful.”
The Jumbo-Visma leadership trio has been towing the party line in recent months, stating that the interests of the team will take precedence over personal ambition. Kuss believes there will be none of the captaincy dramas that have shadowed some of Movistar’s grand tour efforts in the recent years, or which are simmering away at Team Ineos.
“I think the main difference is, at least from knowing Steven, Tom, and Primoz, there’s no big egos,” he said. “Of course, they all are ambitious and want to win, but in my opinion, they have a common interest rather than an internal competition and I think that brings out the best of them and the team around them.”
Having raced the Vuelta twice and the Giro once in his flourishing young career, a first-ever Tour will mark a tipping point as Kuss steps into the biggest race on earth.
“I’m really looking forward to the Tour,” he said. “It’s funny, because in the U.S., most people would think I’m a hobby cyclist unless I tell them I’ve raced the Tour de France.”