Sepp Kuss has revealed further details of the internal Jumbo-Visma team leadership struggle and the decisive meetings that led to him being protected team leader and the eventual winner of the Vuelta a España.
The American rode into Madrid in triumph on Sunday, with Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič celebrating him as the winner, but only after a tense final week in the mountains when both appeared keen to take his race leader’s red jersey.
Kuss gained three minutes on Vingegaard andRoglič when he was allowed to go in the break and then won stage 6 to Javalambre. He took the maillot rojo on stage 8 and kept it all the way to the final week thanks to an excellent performance in the Valladolid time trial and newfound consistency in the mountains.
Race leadership meant he was no longer obliged to sacrifice his chance for his teammates and he proved to be their match and up to the task day after day, all the way to Madrid.
“I think I deserved to win the Vuelta,” Kuss told Marca in a post-Vuelta a España interview, looking back at the tense final week.
“I know that I’m here due to a race situation but from that moment I showed that I could do a good time trial, climb with the best climbers in the world and all in my third Grand Tour of the year. I think I completely deserved this Vuelta but I also have to thank my teammates for putting themselves in my place.”
Kuss and Jumbo-Visma clearly didn’t expect to retain the race lead for so long after the Javalambre stage. He has often suffered a bad day while also being vital in Jumbo-Visma’s Grand Tour success.
Remco Evenepoel’s collapse on stage 13 to the Col du Toutmalet helped Jumbo-Visma’s cause but also showed that Vingegaard andRoglič could also win the Vuelta, fueling the internal rivalry and initial ‘the road will decide’ leadership strategy.
“We didn’t know how far I could go physically and mentally because it’s a new experience for me to be leading a race. But from the moment I became the race leader, I felt so good that I thought I wouldn’t lose the jersey,” Kuss said.
Tensions after the Angliru
Kuss, Vingegaard and Roglič celebrated a historic 1-2-3 on the Vuelta podium in Madrid but the final hierarchy in the team was only decided after the tensions of the finish on the Angliru, where Roglič and Vingegaard rode away from the Kuss, despite him…