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Our View: Beyond cycling titles, Kuss a gracious winner

From riding with Durango Devo’s cycling program to winning the Vuelta a España, Sepp Kuss has always quietly separated himself from the pack.

As a teen, he took long solo rides up mountain passes, linking together trails, outside of team practice. During his time at the University of Colorado Boulder, Kuss won national mountain biking titles before graduating in advertising in 2017.

But it was after completing his degree that Kuss took to professional road cycling. And look where this road led him, an inspiration that exceptional things do happen. A Durango kid who played hockey and cross-country skied, then went on to do more than set cycling records. Kuss, 29, literally made history, winning one of cycling’s three Grand Tours and the first American to do so since Chris Horner in 2013.

But it’s not just Kuss’ titles. It’s how he’s won and his gusto as a domestique, supporting teammates over the finishing line. Going into the Vuelta, Kuss was expected to reprise that role.

Throughout the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and until Vuelta’s final stages, Kuss was a workhorse. He shielded the leader, the G.C., from wind – essentially pulling him up a climb – organized in formation and strategized for someone else to ride into the spotlight. In that underdog role, Kuss showed his ability on massive climbs, mounting attacks, digging in, twisting and turning throughout this grueling competition.

His climbing skills enabled him to pull ahead from a breakaway and win the sixth stage on a mountaintop finish. He moved nearly three minutes ahead of teammates Jonas Vingegaard, the two-time reigning Tour de France winner from Denmark, and Primoz Roglič, three-time Vuelta champion from Slovenia.

That moment signaled it was his time. Kuss’ Vuelta.

After the eighth stage, Kuss took the red leader’s jersey and never relinquished it for the rest of the Spanish race. Flanked by teammates Vingegaard and Roglic, Kuss sealed his victory as both Vingegaard and Roglič pointed toward their friend in the middle. It was a moment we toasted Kuss from our living rooms in the Southwest.

Sports media can be more aggressive in Europe than the U.S., shoving microphones into Kuss’ face. His big celebration would be with family and friends, Kuss said. Then he’d join his Jumbo-Visma teammates and tell the stories of the past three weeks. “So many memories and good times,” he said.

Kuss’ generous sportsmanship won over multiple analysts, who had this to say about him throughout the race stages: “One of the most happy-go-lucky and humble pros.” “A deserving winner.” “A unicorn.” And our favorite, “From the heavens, an angel.”

How many pro cyclists receive this kind of commentary?

It’s why we – along with fans worldwide – kept up with his racing. Kuss is a gracious winner with a reputation for being decent with teammates and staff.

Durangoan Steve Ilg, an outdoor performance coach, has known Kuss since he was a little boy, jumping off snowbanks. “In almost every encounter I’ve had with Sepp, he’s super kindhearted,” Ilg said. “He exudes positivity.”

Ilg said for his daughter Dewa’s 14th birthday two years ago, Kuss sent a video birthday message, encouraging Dewa on her athletic path. A memorable moment from this busy, professional athlete in Spain.

We look forward to Kuss’ future races for the man now crowned a cycling legend. A former Durango kid who loved the simplicity and joy of riding, an ethos from his Devo days.

Congrats, Sepp Kuss. You make Durangoans proud.