Two weeks of racing in the Rocky Mountains made Durango’s Sepp Kuss feel at home.
One week after finishing ninth overall at the Tour of Utah seven-stage road cycling race, the 22-year-old Kuss placed sixth overall at the four-stage Colorado Classic. The Rally Cycling team member finished the 313-mile race with more than 20,000 feet of climbing in 12 hours, 1 minutes, 40 seconds. He finished 1:06 behind race winner Manuel Senni of Italy and the BMC Racing Team.
“It feels good to be done,” Kuss said in a phone interview with The Durango Herald. “I’m happy to have a consistent result over two races in two weeks – two pretty tough races. I’m pleased, and the team is really happy.”
Durango’s Christopher Blevins, who finished ninth in the opening stage Thursday in Colorado Springs, finished 69th overall and was 35:58 back of the winner.
Senni, 25, is a first-time General Classification winner and said he felt at home during the UCI event in Colorado.
“It is really great – really nice to win here with so much people on the road, so friendly, it was something special,” Senni said in a post-race news conference. “They make you feel at home. It was great.”
Serghei Tvetcov of the Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis team was second, 15 seconds back of Senni. The Romanian, who trains in Boulder, won the King of the Mountain jersey and Best Colorado Rider jersey. Tvetcov was third at the Tour of Utah.
Senni and Tvetcov made it a two-man race after Saturday’s third stage, an 81-mile route west on the Peak to Peak Highway with a return ride through the Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Kuss was part of a 22-man chase that didn’t have enough power to bring back in the break. Teams were limited to six riders, and no team had more than two or three riders in the chase.
“That made it kind of interesting,” Kuss said. “It’s hard to organize a chase or anything. The two guys that went to the front are super strong riders. Everybody underestimated a bit, but we were chasing hard. That tailwind back to Denver, it made it easy for guys to hold their advantage. Everyone was out of gas at that point.”
Denver’s Alex Howes was third, 31 seconds back. He enjoyed the circuit format of all four stages that allowed spectators to view the riders multiple times.
“Even though I’m disappointed in my finish, I think it was exciting,” Howes said in a post-race news conference. “Maybe we need to take a lesson from roller derby ... we need to get people revved. Hopefully they show up in 2018.”
Kuss, who won the 2017 Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, finished one spot in front of Albuquerque’s Brent Bookwalter of BMC Racing. Bookwalter finished 2:16 back of Senni. Boulder’s Taylor Phinney finished 34th, 22:38 back. Carbondale’s Keegan Swirbul, the 2015 IHBC road race champion, finished 55th overall and was 30:17 back.
Kuss, son of Dolph and Sabina Kuss, placed 30th in Sunday’s final stage in Denver. It was 74.6 miles with 10 laps through downtown Denver. He finished in the same time as stage winner Mihkel Räim of Estonia. Kuss was 12th during Saturday’s third stage in 3:03:44. Tvetcov won the stage in 3:02:46.
Kuss said he also enjoyed the format of the inaugural Colorado Classic with shorter stages and circuit routes. He said his goal going in was a top-three finish but was happy with sixth and said he did everything possible to shake it up to get closer to the leaders.
“Going into the race, I didn’t really know exactly how it would play out, and a lot of guys didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “It was explosive, a different format from longer point-to-point races.
“The second stage in (Breckenridge) was especially fun for me with tons of fans basically top to bottom of the course. Personally, I’d rather do longer stages, point-to-point stuff with climbs, but there is a point where having super-long stages gets unnecessary and maybe a bit dull. It never hurts to shake things up. For the longevity and likability of cycling and road racing, shorter stages with more concentrated action is more appealing to the average viewer.”
Next for Kuss is the Tour of Alberta in Canada at the start of September. He will then finish his season in Europe with stops in Austria, France and Italy.