Sepp Kuss again produced a decisive ride in support of Primož Roglič in the Giro d’Italia mountains, helping his Jumbo-Visma leader to gain time on João Almeida and so move up to second overall and stay within touching distance of Geraint Thomas.
On Tuesday, the American helped Roglič limit his losses after he suffered on the climb to the Monte Bondone finish. On Thursday, Kuss repeatedly paced and protected Roglič on the late and steep Coi climb and up the Val di Zoldo finish so that he could attack with Thomas and distance Almeida.
Thomas and Roglič only gained 21 seconds on the defiant Portuguese rider, but it was enough to lift Roglič to second overall, 29 seconds down on Thomas, with Almedia slipping to third at 39 seconds. The fight for overall victory remains incredibly tight before the Queen stage through the Dolomites and up to Tre Cime di Lavaredo and then the final mountain time trial to Monte Lussari.
Roglič has avoided speaking at stage finishes since crashing on stage 11 to Tortona with Tao Geoghegan Hart. He hurt his right thigh in the crash, with a wound that apparently needed five stitches and leaving him in pain.
He has prioritised his recovery time, and so ignored requests to speak from the scrum of television cameras and microphones that gather around him when he crosses the finish line. He only acknowledged that he had a good day on stage 18 and then quickly descended to the Jumbo-Visma bus parked two kilometres below the finish.
Kuss was obliged to do the heavy lifting for Roglič during the stage and also speak on his behalf post-stage.
“We knew Almeida was on a gap, and he’s a big rival, but that he paces himself well, we knew he was likely to get close to getting back, so we kept going. It was a big fight in the end,” Kuss explained, rightly proud of his performance and Roglič’s time gain.
“I felt good on the stage today, the climbs were nice and steep, so very tough, but I knew that Primož was feeling good and looking forward to it.
“I usually have an idea of how he’s feeling and what he wants for certain kinds of climbs. He’s good on these explosive efforts, and so I tried to help him whenever I could.”
Kuss also revealed exactly what happened on the early Passo della Crosetta climb, when Roglič and several of his teammates were briefly distanced by the peloton.
It sparked all kinds of conspiracy theories on social media, but Kuss had a simple and amusing explanation.
“He was just a…
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