Sepp Kuss surprised himself a bit with his early-season climbing form Saturday in France.
The 25-year old professional road cyclist from Durango showed off his renowned climbing ability on a summit finish during Stage 3 of the four-stage Tour de La Provence in France. Kuss finished sixth on the 87-mile stage that finished on Mont Ventoux.
Kuss, who won a climbing stage at the 2019 Vuelta a España, proved he could go with the attacking moves of Colombia’s famed climber Nairo Quintana, who won the stage in 3 hours, 36 minutes, 26 seconds. Kuss’ finishing time was 2:12 behind Quintana, who won the mountain classification’s jersey at the 2013 Tour de France and is a three-time Tour de France stage winner as well as a past champion of the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta.
“I felt good. Better than expected, actually,” Kuss said in a Team Jumbo-Visma news release. “I didn’t think I could do this so early in the season. The team did a fantastic job putting Robert (Gesink) and me in an ideal position for the final climb. It is not in my nature to ride defensively, but more offensively. So, I tried by responding to Nairo’s and a number of other attacks. I had to recover from that for a while, but in the end I got through it again and tried to get a nice result. It was a good day for me and the team.”
Quintana, riding for Team Arkea Samsic, took over the general classification lead with the result and has a 1:04 advantage ahead of Russia’s Aleksandr Vlasov and a 1:28 gap on Vlasov’s fellow Astana Pro Team rider Alexey Lutsenko.
Kuss is now in eighth place, 2:26 back of Quintana. He is the top-American rider in the field and is his team’s top rider in the standings.
Durango’s Quinn Simmons, who finished 10th in the group sprint on the opening stage Thursday, is getting his first chance to be tested in the French mountains during a pro stage race. The 18-year-old rider for Trek-Segafredo finished 111th Saturday and is 104th in the GC standings.
The four-day race will conclude Sunday with another climbing stage to the finish in Aix-en-Provence, giving Kuss a chance at another strong result. His early-season racing is all in effort to be prepared for his Tour de France debut this summer.
“I’m going to try to hold on to my top 10 ranking and help my teammates where possible,” Kuss said in the news release. “The team has helped me a lot in the recent days, so it would be nice if I could give something back to them if it turns out to be a sprint of a reduced peloton. Normally, I need more races and training to get into shape. The fact that I already reached this level in February gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season.”