If Thursday’s performance was any indication, Durango’s Sepp Kuss will be in prime form for his Tour de France debut later this month.
Kuss, a 25-year-old professional cyclist for Team Jumbo-Visma, climbed his way to the front during Stage 2 of the five-stage Critérium du Dauphiné on Thursday in France. His performance helped send team leader Primož Roglic to the stage victory and the overall lead.
Kuss and Roglic worked together up the final hors catégorie (beyond categorization) climb of Col de Porte, and Roglic staged his final attack with a little more than 700 yards to the finish line and was able to secure a stage win on the 84-mile route in 3 hours, 39 minutes, 40 seconds. That was eight seconds ahead of Thibaut Pinot and Emanuel Buchmann.
Kuss finished 11th on the stage, 40 seconds behind Roglic. His performance was key in helping Jumbo-Visma’s star hold off the moves from the powerhouse squad of Team Ineos.
“I felt really good,” Kuss said in a team news release. “The pace of Team Ineos was high from the start of the climb, and it was mainly a matter of keeping your rhythm and trying to follow. After Ineos was done, I increased the pace because I knew Primož could finish it off on such a finish. He did, and how! We have once again proved that we can work well together as a team and that our confidence is very high. I am already looking forward to the coming days.”
Roglic backed up Wednesday’s Stage 1 win by teammate Wout van Aert. He took the leader’s yellow jersey from Van Aert, and the star from Slovenia now has a 12-second lead in the general classification on Pinot. Kuss is in 31st overall, 3:05 behind Roglic.
“It is a good result for our team”, Roglic said in the news release. “We have shown once again that we prepared well for these races. The whole team did a great job, and I am glad I was able to finish it off. We knew it was going to be a difficult stage with a tough final climb. Perhaps the toughest this week. We controlled the stage from the start. The boys were very strong, and we finished it perfectly. I am very happy with this victory. I certainly cannot complain with how it is going after having won the Tour de l’Ain and this stage. I am happy with every race I can ride this year and I am very happy with the way things are going now. Both for me and for the team. But we are not there yet. The next three days are going to be tough and we have to stay sharp and focused.”
The Jumbo-Visma riders were in battle with mighty Team Ineos all day. But defending Tour de France champion Egan Bernal wasn’t able to keep up when Roglic staged his final attack. Bernal had tried to make a move earlier, but Kuss quickly shut down the gap and took to the front and set the pace. That set up the late move for Roglic, last year’s Vuelta a España champion who Kuss and Jumbo-Visma will try to help to a Tour de France victory in September.
This race is the final tuneup before the Tour de France, which was postponed from earlier this summer to run Aug. 29 through Sept. 20. It is a climbing-heavy route this year, giving Kuss a chance to shine in his supporting role of Roglic.
After a win on Stage 15 of the Spanish Vuelta a year ago for his first Grand Tour stage victory, Kuss will look to target a couple of the big climbing stages at this year’s Tour de France for some individual results while supporting Roglic.
Kuss is in his second event since the restart of the season following a shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He competed in the five-stage Vuelta a Burgos in Spain and finished 20th overall after a strong final day.
He has had success previously at Dauphiné, as he finished fifth on the last of eight stages a year ago en route to a 26th-place finish in the general classification.
The Critérium du Dauphiné will continue Friday with two more big climbs, including a climbing finish to complete a 97½-mile route. Stage 4 on Saturday will offer 95 miles with a massive day of climbing and another uphill finish, as will Sunday’s finale.