Geraint Thomas on Vuelta a España GC drama: ‘Most of the peloton would like to see Sepp Kuss win’

The 2018 Tour de France champion questions Jumbo-Visma's handling of the GC situation: 'I feel for Kuss. I feel like he deserves a bit more respect from the team.'

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PROAZA, Spain (Velo) — Geraint Thomas says “most of the peloton” is hoping Sepp Kuss will hang on to win this Vuelta a España.

The American is barely clinging onto his red jersey by just eight seconds going into Thursday’s last major mountaintop finale, and so far his most dangerous GC rivals are Jumbo-Visma teammates Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard.

Speaking to Eurosport before the start of Thursday’s stage, the 2018 Tour de France winner said many in the peloton are hoping the hard-working climber can be on the top step Sunday in Madrid.

“I would love to see Sepp win, and I think most of the peloton would as well,” Thomas told Eurosport. “Who will win? Vingegaard maybe, but there his a lot of pressure now on that team. There are a lot of outside pressures now.”

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Jumbo-Visma is seeing heat on social media from fans questioning the management’s handling of the GC situation in the Vuelta’s final week.

Kuss, a longtime loyal domestique and key rider in all six of the team’s recent grand tour victories, rode into the red jersey in the first week.

The American, who celebrated his 29th birthday Wednesday, defended his leader’s jersey in the individual time trial and across the Pyrénées.

Jumbo-Visma has allowed all three riders to race for the win. Vingegaard attacked to win Tuesday’s stage at Bejes, and Roglič and the Dane dropped Kuss on the Angliru.

Kuss saw his lead reduced to just eight seconds after his co-leaders gapped him late in each climbing stage.

Thomas — who predicted that Vingegaard and Roglič would attack Kuss this week — agreed that Kuss shouldn’t be “gifted” a grand tour victory.

The Ineos Grenadiers captain added, however, that Kuss deserves to win based on his performance.

“There shouldn’t be any gifts in a grand tour,” he told Eurosport. “It’s one thing to gift a stage, and I don’t think because someone has worked for you for years that you should let them win, but I don’t think that’s the case.

“He’s good enough to be in the position he’s in,” Thomas said. “I feel for Kuss. I feel like he deserves a bit more respect from the team. I think the team should be stronger with that.

“And they played that card,” Thomas said. “They rode super hard that day to get a gap and maintain a gap, and now they’re changing their mind.

“Looking at yesterday, I don’t think there’s such a big difference,” he said between Kuss and the Jumbo-Visma stars. “Kuss only got distanced 1km from the top on such a hard climb at the end of such a hard race. That’s slightly different than a big gap between the leaders and a domestique.”

Thomas: ‘I feel for Kuss’

Geraint Thomas
Thomas says he believes Kuss deserves more respect from his team. (Photo: Chris Auld/Velo)

Thomas, who faced similar battles with Chris Froome at Team Sky en route to his yellow jersey in 2018, also questioned how the team is handling the internal power struggle.

“If the leader is stronger from the start, they should have the freedom to race to win,” he said.

“The fact there was only three of them, and no other tactics came into play,” Thomas said. “If it was a close fight for the podium, but that’s pretty much sewn up anyway.

“Roglič is not going to win this Vuelta, there was no real need for him to carry on to get those seconds, he was still going to win that stage, and he’s still going to be third,” Thomas said of the Angliru tactics. “I don’t think he needed to continue at that pace. He could have slowed up a bit. It’s an interesting one.”

Thomas didn’t stop there.

He also questioned two-time Tour de France winner Vingegaard and his ambitions.

“Even the day before, when Vingegaard attacked, and he got a minute, but not solely from the legs. It was tactical behind, and it stalled in the back,” he said.

“If you’re going to race it, race it properly,” Thomas said. “You can’t just say we’re going to race, and the best guy is going to win.

“It’s quite easy to take advantage of that if the guys behind don’t pull, and there are other guys in GC on the wheels as well. Do one or the other.”

All eyes will be on Thursday’s final climb. With a big breakaway up the road and almost no threat on GC, all eyes will be on whether or not Roglič and Vingegaard attack.

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