Durango cyclist Sepp Kuss will compete in his third Tour de France, and this year, Kuss and his Jumbo Visma teammates are going after the yellow jersey.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Kuss said. “At first, it felt like just another race, but at the team presentation with all of the fans, I could really feel the atmosphere. Now I’m ready.”
The team presentation was held Wednesday in Copenhagen, Denmark, where the first stage will be held Friday. Kuss’ teammate, Jonas Vingegaard, also is Danish, which added to the applause Jumbo Visma received.
“It was a deafening roar,” Kuss said. “It gave me goosebumps.”
Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic will be the team’s leaders in the Tour, and they have arguably the strongest supporting cast backing them up.
“We’ve got a superstrong team, and it’s really well balanced,” Kuss said. “We’ve got guys for flats, guys for cobble and guys for the mountains. Our two leaders are also two of the big favorites. It’s nice to be on such a strong team because we can really look for all of the opportunities.”
Tadej Pogacar of UAE Team Emirates has won the past two Tours and is a favorite again. Jumbo Visma, however, wants to dethrone him in this year’s tour.
“Our biggest goal is to go for the yellow jersey and for the green jersey with Wout (Van Aert),” Kuss said. “It’s ambitious to go for two, but with the team we have, we can do it.”
The yellow jersey will go to the general classification winner with the overall best time, and the green jersey goes to the points leader. Kuss said they’ll choose when and where to invest their energy, but having Van Aert up the road chasing points can help the team strategically.
“Wout is so versatile that he doesn’t need the team to support him,” Kuss said.
Kuss’ focus, meanwhile, is on the tour’s mountain stages, which begin in the second week of the race.
“On the big mountain stages, I want to be there as long as possible with Primoz and Jonas, hopefully to make a difference in the mountains,” he said.
Because mountain stages begin in the second week, Kuss will have more time to recover. In the Tour de Suisse June 12-19, Kuss was a few seconds out of the GC lead after the first four stages when the team had to withdraw from the competition.
“I wanted to give (the GC) my best shot, but unfortunately me and a few others tested positive for COVID,” Kuss said.
He said he was sick for three days before slowly recovering.
“It was a bit of a setback and a shame to leave that race, to miss a week of training and the hard stages in the Tour de Suisse,” Kuss said.
Kuss, however, feels like he’ll be ready to help his team in the Tour de France.
“My role is later in the race, so I have time to get back in the rhythm,” he said. “For me, the first week is about getting in the rhythm, staying safe and to be ready for the second half of the race.”
And while Pogacar is the favorite, he’s not unbeatable or the only threat.
“He’s the most dominate GC rider in the world at the moment – his climbing is really strong. His time trials are really strong, and he’s just consistently good, but we’ve come close over the years and know it’s possible to beat him,” Kuss said. “But we also have rivals on other teams, so we can’t focus on just one guy.”
The tour will begin with a 13.2K time trial on Friday in Copenhagen, followed by two flat stages that are 202.5 and 182 kilometers long.
After a transfer day, the tour will resume in France with three hilly stages.
“The first week has lots of tricky stages with wind and cobblestone stages,” Kuss said. “You can’t win the race, but you can lose a lot then.”
The first mountain stage will be Stage 7 on July 8, followed by a hilly stage and another mountain stage before a rest day July 11.
The next six stages will have two mountain stages, two hilly stages and two flat stages before another rest day July 18.
The Tour will then have another hilly stage, two mountain stages and a flat stage before a 40.7K individual time trial in the penultimate stage July 23.
The Tour de France will then conclude with Stage 21, a 116K flat that will finish in Paris on July 24.
“It’s a pretty balanced course,” Kuss said. “There’s something every day that’s an obstacle.”
Last year, Kuss became only the 11th rider from the United States to win a stage at the Tour de France, and the first since Tyler Farrar in 2011.
“This will be my third (tour) and every year has been something different, and each time I learned a bit more,” he said.
This year, Kuss also will get to race with another cyclist from Durango: Quinn Simmons will make his Tour debut this year for Trek Segafredo.
“It will be cool to race with Quinn,” Kuss said. “It’s unique to have two riders from a small town like Durango, but that’s just how it is with the Durango cycling scene.”