Days after his 23rd birthday, Durango’s Sepp Kuss took a big leap in his professional road cycling career.
Kuss, a 2013 graduate of Durango High School and 2017 graduate of the University of Colorado, signed with Team LottoNL-Jumbo of the Netherlands and will race for its UCI World Tour team beginning in 2018. Kuss spent the last two seasons with Rally Cycling, an American continental tour team.
“It’s very exciting. It’s honestly happening a bit faster than I thought,” Kuss said in a phone interview with The Durango Herald. “Two years ago, I was just concentrating on being a good college student while still racing mountain bikes at the time. The prospect of racing on the road bike, much less being in the World Tour, was not a thought for me.
“Initially when I got into road bike racing, I thought about it as a fun project and a challenge. Now, it turns out I’m at the highest level of the sport team-wise. It’s a pretty surreal feeling.”
The Dutch-based team was in search of a strong climber and found it in Kuss. The Durangoan has produced top results in 2017. He finished 10th on the Stage 5 climb of Mount Baldy at the Tour of California, was second on the second stage of the Tour of Utah in the climb to Snowbasin Resort and earned the first yellow jersey of his career as the overall leader after that second stage. He also is fresh off a second-place finish at the Tour of Alberta.
After the Tour of California, Kuss returned home and won the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic road race from Durango to Silverton.
“Kuss attracted our attention during the Tour of California,” Team LottoNL-Jumbo director sportive Merijn Zeeman said in a news release. “Since then, we have been following him and we tested him intensively. He has a background as a mountain biker and hasn’t been riding a racing bike for a long time yet. He still has plenty of room for development and we will give him the time to do so.”
Team LottoNL-Jumbo has competed in every Tour de France since 1984. Kuss won’t jump directly into Grand Tour events, but he said the team has a history of sending younger riders to big events. He hopes to compete in a Vuelta a España in the next two years.
“The first year is mostly about developing without any pressure,” Kuss said. “A lot of that is putting me in good races but not races that are totally over my head. My big goal in the first two years is the Vuelta. That would be a good race for me.”
Every race in 2016 was good for Kuss, and he put up results with pressure facing him. Team LottoNL-Jumbo first reached out to Kuss after the Tour of California, and he took a physiological test with the team shortly after.
“They were happy with the results,” Kuss said. “From there, they were following my results. My goal was to be consistent throughout the season and show I could be a reliable rider. I did good enough to earn their confidence in me.”
Kuss, son of Dolph and Sabina Kuss, credited his Durango upbringing for his success. Dolph has a famed background in Nordic skiing and mountaineering, and his mother would take him for bike rides as a child.
“I owe it to my parents,” he said, “and I owe a lot to the Durango DEVO program for instilling that passion for riding bikes. Being a well-rounded human being has taken me really far in life. The general outdoor attitude Durango has is really special and breeds a person that can be successful in athletics but also can be a grounded person, which I hope to take with me through my time in the World Tour.”