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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
That’s Jumbo-Visma’s grand tour plan for Sepp Kuss in 2023.
“We tried GC with him in 2021, and we evaluated it. But I think we’ve developed a super-important role for Sepp as a helper. He is super-valued. And I would say that role fits him better,” team director Merijn Zeeman told VeloNews.
- Inside the old-school training that took Kuss to the top of the Tour
- Road to yellow jersey started six years ago for Jumbo-Visma
Kuss became a central pulley in Jumbo-Visma’s rise to stage-racing supremacy.
The Coloradan towed Primož Roglič to three red jerseys at the Vuelta a España and helped Jonas Vingegaard fend off Tadej Pogačar when the Dutch team scored its long-sought Tour de France victory this summer.
Jumbo-Visma won’t risk letting Kuss off the leash to hunt his own maglia rosa, maillot jaune or maillot rojo next season.
“He has certain qualities. In the hardest moments, Sepp is always there for the leader,” Zeeman said.
“We’ve been building this team for many years. And if we look to Sepp and this role, he has really grown into the stronghold of Jumbo-Visma, and that’s not by chasing his own GC, but by being a super, super, super, valuable teammate for others.”
‘I cannot imagine a Tour team without Sepp’
Jumbo-Visma rumbles into 2023 as the grand tour team to beat. Vingegaard, Roglič, and the newly signed Wilco Kelderman top a GC crew that also packs the punch of Wout van Aert, Steven Kruijswijk, and Tiesj Benoot.
Meanwhile, UAE Emirates and Ineos Grenadiers want marquee wins more than ever in 2023.
Pogačar vows to reclaim his Tour de France crown and has a fearsome fleet of UAE climbers to call on. Egan Bernal could be on the comeback. Riders like Juan Ayuso, Carlos Rodriguez and João Almeida all pack ambition and potential.
Jumbo-Visma will need Kuss more than ever before in 2023.
The team has three potential winners for the three grand tours and a deep list of rivals looking to squeeze the brakes on the momentum.
“If you look at the last Tour de France, it was not only a battle between Jonas and Pogačar. But there was also a battle between Majka, Kuss, and Kruijswijk,” Zeeman said in a recent call.
“And these three guys, they were really among the best climbers. And if you want to win the Tour de France you need guys like this. And they are they are just super-valuable. And you cannot miss them actually.”
Zeeman and his staffing crew is currently plotting Jumbo-Visma’s grand tour pathway for 2023.
A time trial-laden Giro d’Italia suits big-motored Roglič, while Vingegaard will most likely defend yellow at the Tour – even if the team hinted otherwise. Kelderman and Roglič could see out the season at the Vuelta.
“With so many TT kilometers in the Giro, GC there would be mission impossible for Sepp. So trying things like that, when instead, last year, he was a super-valued member of the Tour de France team …. no,” Zeeman told VeloNews. “I cannot imagine a Tour team without Sepp in it.”
It looks like Kuss will be back driving his mountain train in a fourth Tour de France start in July.
A return to the Vuelta, a race where he won a stage and finished eighth overall, will likely follow as the team reaps the rewards of its mountain man’s typical late-summer surge in form.
Finding opportunities elsewhere
So where does Kuss get his racing kicks?
He’s long shrugged off the notion of racing for himself, despite scoring a career-best grand tour top-10 at last year’s Vuelta.
The now-28-year-old has talked of how helping others win big feels just as good as winning himself – and he sounds genuine.
Any reluctance to hold the GC reins himself is countered with the pleasure of putting pain on others. And searing breakaway wins at the Vuelta and the Tour show Kuss can convert his own opportunities when they arrive.
“In 2021 when Primož crashed, Sepp was there to win a stage. So I would say we’ve found the right way to work together,” Zeeman said.
Jumbo-Visma wants more grand tour victories in 2023. Count on Kuss to be a part of a teammate’s success.