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With a slender margin, the popular and powerful American climber becomes the first U.S. male in a decade to win a grand tour.
Kuss defied the odds — and sometimes his own Jumbo-Visma teammates — to join the elite club of U.S. grand tour winners.
“I’m living the dream today,” Kuss said. “Usually, I’m on the other side. I’m often on the winning teams, but to be the one wearing the jersey is just incredible. So yeah, still living a dream.”
Kuss survived another frenetic stage in the Vuelta’s finale on the mean streets of Madrid to win the overall crown, and cement Jumbo-Visma’s historic grand tour clean sweep in 2023.
“It’s incredible,” Kuss said. “I think today was the stage I was suffering the most in the whole race. I am just glad it’s over. I had a feeling it would be a fast stage when I saw all those guys getting ready to attack. I suffered more today than I did on the Angliru.”
Jumbo-Visma also swept the top-3 on the podium, a first in almost 60 years, with Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič sharing the spotlight with the rider who was essential in their six grand tour victories.
“We have written history and have taken all three spots on the podium,” Vingegaard said. “So obviously we are super happy and proud of how this year has been. I think we can call it a historical season for our team, so obviously happy.”
This Vuelta marked Kuss’s third straight grand tour in 2023, and he was a key member of the team’s victory at the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France. Kuss also started the Tour and Vuelta in 2022, making this fifth consecutive grand tour start.
Kuss and his podium speech from Madrid:
“It is incredible to be here. Normally I am a bit out there watching these two guys end up on the podium. Like I told them earlier on the bus, for me being with these two, with Primož for the Giro and Jonas for the Tour, I feel so proud and honored to be standing with them here in La Vuelta.
“It has been a crazy three weeks, and I couldn’t have done it without the support of Primož, Jonas, Robert, Wilco, Jan, Dylan, Attila, everybody on the team. I think apart from being super strong riders, just really good people and amazing times spending the three weeks with them.
“Apart from them, the staff, soigneurs, mechanics, directors, everybody gave so much. Also my wife Noemi, my mom Sabina being with me at every finish, as well as my wife’s family enjoying the road trip through Spain and supporting me through every moment in this Vuelta. I am always thinking about my dad back home and my home town of Durango — a big shout out to Durango!
Kuss then switched to Spanish to address the public in Madrid:
“I also want to thank the whole audience for this wonderful Vuelta, because without your support, I don’t know … you gave me so much love and so much support in every stage, in every uphill. I could hear my name in the mountains and in many little places, corners of Spain as well.
“For me the closeness with the audience is what I love about cycling, and what I love about the Vuelta. And this year more than ever I have enjoyed so much your love and support.
“It has helped me to handle so many things, so thank you very much.”
Sepp Kuss: ‘I’m living the dream’
Kuss didn’t come to the Vuelta thinking of overall victory, but he won stage 6 and rattled up the GC, moving nearly three minutes ahead of pre-race favorites Remco Evenepoel and his teammates.
The Durango rider climbed into the red leader’s jersey two days later, and beat the odd-makers by defending the lead in the individual time trial to open the second week. Once into the Pyrénées, Kuss rose to the occasion, and found wings to carry red into the final week.
Controversy erupted when teammates Vingegaard and Roglič attacked Kuss in back-to-back stage victories that saw Kuss’s lead shrink to just eight seconds.
Commentators criticized the team’s “let them race” tactics, and social media blew up after it appeared that Jumbo-Visma was racing against one of its own.
Jumbo-Visma ordered a truce in the aftermath of the Angliru battle, and the team closed ranks around its affable and popular super domestique to carry Kuss into Madrid for Sunday’s final stage.
With victory, Kuss becomes the fourth U.S. male rider to win a grand tour, joining Greg LeMond, Andy Hampsten, and Chris Horner in the record books as official winners of cycling’s three-week stage races.
The Coloradan vowed that the success will not change him as a person.
“I will remain humble. There are different ways of being a champion, but I will remain humble,” Kuss said.
“It’s life-changing, for sure, but I will look back on this experience with a lot of fond memories. It’s still sinking in, that will take some time,” he said in Madrid. “Tonight? A big celebration, family and friends are here, and that will be really special, to be with the riders and staff to tell the stories over the past few weeks. So many good memories and good times.”
US official grand tour victories:
Tour de France 1986: Greg LeMond
Giro d’Italia 1988: Andrew Hampsten
Tour de France 1989: Greg LeMond
Tour de France 1990: Greg LeMond
La Vuelta 2013: Chris Horner
La Vuelta 2023: Sepp Kuss