If his rivals are hoping he suffering under the responsibility of wearing the ‘maillot rojo’, particularly as this is his third Grand Tour of 2023, Kuss was adamant that’s not the case.
Kuss struck a defiant note as he underlined that “it’s been a very intense second week, but it’s mostly been in terrain that I like, so that’s not been as hard as the first one.”
“I came into the second week with better feelings, and I’m feeling better than in the first week, so I’m getting better,” he added.
The American and his team faced some unexpected challenges on Sunday’s aggressive stage through the hills of Navarre, with attacks by Marc Soler in particular and by UAE Team Emirates squad in general, making for an ultra-fast, fraught day of racing.
Kuss’ squad were once again more than up to the task of clamping down on the dangerous moves, but UAE’s constant probing of their strength was a reminder that the Vuelta is far from over. There’s still plenty of room for things to go awry in the final run-in to Madrid.
The series of attacks by UAE during stage 15 did not make it any easier for the American, with the first two hours a constant whirlwind of movement off the front, culminating in a surge from Marc Soler on the seemingly innocuous ascent of the Puerto de Lizarraga.
“It was really fast, really up and down, all day long. There were a lot of splits. It was important to keep your eyes open because there were moments where Soler was jumping away.”
“Primoz, Jonas and I could play our cards. There were some moments when Jonas followed and I didn’t need to go with it, I could also look at other favourites who were trying to protect their top 5 or top 10 positions.”
“It was not an ideal situation with Soler getting in the break, but Jonas getting up there was good and it was good he could bring it back.”
Kuss and Jumbo-Visma’s domination seemingly feels unbreakable, at least for now. The next round of high mountain stages will start on Wednesday on the Angliru, and Kuss said that he planned to spend the final rest day recovering as much as possible for the next phase of the Vuelta.
“I won’t do much,” he said. “It’ll be good to switch off mentally and look at the next few stages feeling a bit fresher.”