Vuelta a España leader Sepp Kuss says he expects a major fight on the final GC stage of the race on Saturday, warning that “everybody is going to go all in” and that “it will be a really tough day.”
Jumbo-Visma currently dominate the overall GC in the Vuelta a España, with Kuss 17 seconds ahead of Jonas Vingegaard, with another teammate Primož Roglič at 1:08 and their closest rival, Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) at 4:00. And after Jumbo-Visma opted to switch strategies from their earlier ‘every GC rider for himself’ strategy to the more conventional one of collectively protecting Kuss leadership, the American’s position in la roja is looking much more stable.
But with more than 4,200 metres of vertical climbing, stage 20 still represents a serious hurdle for all the GC riders to cross and its unusual format, with a seemingly endless series of category 3 climbs peppered across the day, are a daunting challenge in anyone’s book.
“It looks like there are quite a few climbs, but I think the most important part for tomorrow [Saturday] is that we have a really strong team and we can go into tomorrow with a lot of confidence,” Kuss told reporters after coming through stage 19’s eye-catching late crash unscathed.
“But for sure it’s going to be a really hard day. I think everyone’s going to go all in.”
Frequently compared to a Liège-Bastogne-Liège-like profile, Kuss has only once ridden Ia Doyenne, finishing 55th in 2022, so his experience in these kinds of non-stop ‘Classics’ climbing races is very limited.
However, much as Paris-Roubaix’s cobbled sectors are very different when tackled in a stage of the Tour de France, the Jumbo-Visma rider pointed out that “in the third week of a Grand Tour, everything is a bit different.”
“It’s not like one-day racing where everything is quite explosive with so much up and down. But here in the end of a Grand Tour, there’s a lot of accumulated climbing, my rivals are tired, so they won’t have the energy of a one-week race.”
While the Jumbo-Visma ‘each man for himself’ strategy that caused such a ruckus earlier this week is beginning to fade in the rear-view mirror of the Vuelta, Kuss was asked about Primož Roglič’s seemingly guarded comment on TV that while he accepted the new ‘protect Sepp’ overall strategy, he “had his own thoughts about it.”
“I have a great deal of respect for Primož as a rider, and everybody has a right to their own opinion regarding the tactics and the race, I understand that,” Kuss said…