Sepp Kuss remains on top of the overall classification of the Vuelta a España after the stage that suited him the least, and as the race heads back into his favoured terrain, the mountains, the American spoke with renewed optimism about his chances of taking the leader’s jersey all the way to Madrid.
As an out-and-out climber who last led a GC classification in the Tour of Utah back in 2018 and who usually uses time trial stages as virtual rest days, Kuss had virtually no reference points for the 26-kilometre race against the clock in Valladolid and off-race data can only get you so far.
But the American came through with flying colours all the same, earning congratulations from time trial world champion and Vuelta arch-rival Remco Evenepoel, amongst others, and finishing 13th at 1:29. A result which placed him ahead of three-times Vuelta runner-up Enric Mas (Movistar) amongst others.
As a result, with an overall lead of 26 seconds on Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates), Evenepoel at 1:09, and Primož Roglič at 1:36, even if both teammates Roglič and double Tour de France winner Jona Vingegaard continue to form a major part of the Jumbo-Visma overall game plan, Kuss’ GC options remain very much intact as well.
“I have to believe in myself, I would love to keep the red jersey and even win the race and just trust my feelings and ride with my instincts,” Kuss told reporters as he celebrated his third day in red.
“For me, the most important thing is we still have two really strong riders in Jonas [Vingegaard] and Primož.”
“I don’t feel any pressure on my shoulders. I just feel a lot of positivity from the team, that they’re happy to see me in this moment, and that’s the most important thing at this point.”
Kuss said that when it came to defending his lead in the time trial, “I honestly didn’t know what to expect. You can always look at the data, this and that and extrapolate certain numbers, and when I rode the course, I thought it was quite decent for me, I just needed to keep the rhythm.
“So I tried not to think too much about anything and just ride as smooth and comfortable as possible.”
“It was a tough day. I suffered a lot because usually when I do a time trial, I back off when I get too much pain, so it was a new experience.”
“But it was really nice, I didn’t feel so nervous, I just wanted to enjoy the day. No matter what happened, I knew it would be an unforgettable experience – being the last guy on the start ramp, wearing the red jersey…