Tadej Pogacar will be racing the Giro d'Italia, but main rivals Team Visma | Lease a Bike and Sepp Kuss in particular have no less attention on the Slovenian into the Tour de France despite the efforts that will come beforehand.
"I only feel pressure from myself and not from the team. Of course they want to get the best out of me, but they also don't expect impossible things from me," Kuss shared with Off The Mark. "I personally feel the least pressure in the Grand Tours, because that's when I'm at my best. I'm just having fun and we'll see."
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The American has won the Vuelta a España last year, but his role in the team remains the same. A brilliant climber and now proven Grand Tour contender, he will nevertheless race in support of Jonas Vingegaard at the upcoming Tour de France as the Dane seeks his third win. With UAE Team Emirates planning to have four leaders however, the Dutch team may use Kuss in a different way than that of the past. He may be a card for the yellow jersey too his summer if the team tactics take that into consideration.
"...I can compete in the Grand Tours. That gives peace and confidence at the same time. There are more opportunities, but I don't have to change as a rider, because I am not looking for a role as absolute leader," he says, looking back at the Vuelta. "I never thought in advance about a possible final victory. Only after the individual time trial did I start to believe in it and that was ultimately the difference. It was the first time trial ever in which I had something to lose. I've never had to push as much as I did that day."
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"I also had to stay focused and sharp, while I normally ride quietly at the back, if it is not necessary. The team was surprised about that too. I didn't have a single bad day in the Vuelta a España, but in general my performances in the Giro, the Tour and the Vuelta were at the same level."
Kuss will face Pogacar in July, and he compliments the Slovenian on his Giro-Tour challenge for 2024: "It's nice that he's trying that. He always does something different and discovers all kinds of things in the race. For him, the Giro is a three-week training camp, even the best training camp there is. If he can get through the Giro well with good weather, he will be better at the start of the Tour."
Lastly, he was asked about Primoz Roglic, his former teammate who will now become one of the main rivals for the Dutch team, as he leads a full-focused BORA - hansgrohe into the Grand Boucle. "He now has a better environment and a better role for the Tour and his other goals."