“I still feel confident that if we went all-in, all three together, I would still win the Vuelta” - Sepp Kuss dispels talk of 'gifted' Grand Tour win

In the most incredible display of team dominance in Grand Tour history, Jumbo-Visma (now Team Visma | Lease a Bike) locked out the podium of the 2023 Vuelta a Espana, with Sepp Kuss claiming the first Grand Tour win of his career.

Afterwards however, there were some who attempted to talk down about Kuss' win, claiming it was gifted to the American despite the perceived fact that he was the weaker of the team's three riders alongside Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic. In a lengthy career reflection of the 29-year-old, Kuss spoke to Outside Online about the drama of the 2023 Vuelta a Espana.

“I still feel confident that if we went all-in, head-to-head, the three of us together, I would still win the Vuelta,” Kuss responds to talk of gifted Grand Tours defiantly. After moving into the Red Jersey on stage 8, Kuss's main threat to a possible Vuelta win was three fold. His two, proven Grand Tour winning teammates, and the impending individual time-trial, a discipline in which Kuss has never excelled in.

“In most races I never had to push myself to the limit in a time trial,” Kuss recalls, having managed to limit his losses to both Roglic and Vingegaard, keeping himself firmly in control of the general classification. “Being in the red jersey, there was no other option than to go to my limit physically and mentally, because for the first time in my career there was something to lose.”

Into the final week however, Roglic and Vingegaard both seemingly refused to accept that their domestique could or should win a Grand Tour ahead of them. Whilst Kuss had the measure of all the GC riders of rival teams, his own two teammates attacked him day after day, instead of working in service of the Red Jersey. “Of course I would rather have had the support of everyone from the get-go,” Kuss says. “I was also open to letting everyone do their race. You don’t want to win a grand tour and wonder if I raced with an advantage.”

“I still feel confident that if we went all-in, all three together, I would still win the Vuelta” - Sepp Kuss dispels talk of 'gifted' Grand Tour win
Roglic (L) and Vingegaard (R) riding away from Kuss on the Angliru

When, on stage 17, both Roglic and Vingegaard attacked Kuss on the infamous slopes of the Angliru however, things reached boiling point. “I was like, This is ridiculous,” Kuss recalls. “My two teammates are ahead, and I’m behind this guy who’s our rival. My mind was still stuck in the role of a teammate—I’m not going to pull Landa closer to Jonas and Primoz. But my teammates are riding away from me.”

Eventually, after a heated team meeting under concerted pressure from the cycling community, Roglic and Vingegaard relented their attacks against Kuss and the American went on to win the Vuelta. Through it all however, Kuss continued to think of the team above himself. “Mostly I felt it was better to keep it to myself and with my wife—I didn’t want to make it a bigger issue than it was,” he concludes.

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