The rise of Sepp Kuss continued Friday in Spain. The 23-year-old professional cyclist is only seven days into the first Grand Tour of his career, and he already has a top-10 stage finish to his name.
Kuss, who won the seven-day Tour of Utah at the beginning of August, ended the best month of his career in style Friday. He placed 10th at the seventh stage of the Vuelta España, the last of three Grand Tour events on the International Cycling Union (UCI) calendar. The other three-week UCI Grand Tours are the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France.
France’s Tony Gallopin broke away from the rest of the field and won Friday’s Stage 7, a 115-mile route from Puerto Lumbreras to Pozo Alcon. Gallopin finished in 4 hours, 18 minutes, 20 seconds. Slovakia’s world champion Peter Sagan was second, five seconds back, in a group that included Kuss.
Kuss, a rookie on the Team LottoNL-Jumbo World Tour team, was happy with the result in a race where he will continue to serve as a support rider for a pair of teammates with general classification podium potential.
“It’s nice to get a top-10 result, especially in my first Grand Tour,” Kuss said in a message to The Durango Herald, “but the focus really is on helping Steven (Kruijswijk) and George (Bennett) the best I can because they have a real shot at making the final podium.”
The final 12 miles featured short climbs and a tricky descent, Kuss said. Sagan and his Bora-hansgrohe team pushed the pace on a hot day, as they went for the stage win.
“I did my work for our two GC leaders, marking dangerous moves and keeping them positioned in the final,” Kuss said. “With about 2 (kilometers) to go, I started riding the front to keep the pace high so Steven and George could have a clean run at the finish.
“With 200 meters to go, it kicked up. I was still in good position and felt OK, even after doing my work, so I kept it going to the line.”
Kuss has shown strong form during the first week of the Spanish Vuelta. He finished 17th during the fifth stage and was 27th at the fourth stage after a strong climbing performance in support of his team.
While he won’t contend for the overall title, Kuss will have more chances to show his ability during climbing stages while he does his best to aid Bennett and Kruijswijk. Kuss currently is 47th in the general classification, 14:48 behind the lead of Molard.
Saturday’s Stage 8 is mostly flat for 121 miles from Linares to Almaden. The three-week Grand Tour will finish Sept. 16 in Madrid.
“Some stages it’s better for me to sit up and save energy, and for the hard days like today, it’s important for me to be with them for as long as possible,” Kuss said. “In some situations, I have the freedom to go for a result, which is always motivating.”