Kuss returns from COVID-19 to play key role for Jumbo-Visma at Tour de France

COPENHAGEN DENMARK JUNE 29 Tiesj Benoot of Belgium Steven Kruijswijk of Netherlands Sepp Kuss of United States Christophe Laporte of France Primoz Roglic of Slovenia Wout Van Aert of Belgium Nathan Van Hooydonck of Belgium Jonas Vingegaard Rasmussen of Denmark and Team Jumbo Visma during the Team Presentation of the 109th Tour de France 2022 at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen City TDF2022 on June 29 2022 in Copenhagen Denmark Photo by Stuart FranklinGetty Images
Sepp Kuss with his Jumbo-Visma teammates in special kits for the 2022 Tour de France (Image credit: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

American Sepp Kuss can’t wait to get his third trip to the Tour de France underway, happy to be there after just two weeks ago his path to an eighth Grand Tour start hit a major roadblock.

HIs Jumbo-Visma team withdrew from the Tour de Suisse on June 16, mid-way through the eight-day race, as it was reported that four positive cases of COVID-19 were detected. Team management did not reveal which riders or staff had tested positive for the coronavirus, but Kuss confirmed the day before the Tour de France that he was one of them.

“Now I feel fine. I had four days with symptoms, nothing crazy but not feeling well. I was able to get training again. I feel more or less back in the rhythm now,” he said to reporters, including Cyclingnews, the day before the Grand Départ in Copenhagen. 

“In Suisse, it would have been good to do the non-stages, to have those efforts. But I think for me it’s not like I need to be already good in the beginning of this Tour. And sometimes things like that have a silver lining, and maybe I’ll be more fresh at the end of the race. You always have to look at it positively.”

A week after the COVID scare, the Dutch-based team made its Tour selection. Kuss was named with Steven Kruijswijk to provide climbing support to its triumvirate of leaders - Primož Roglič, Jonas Vingegaard and Wout van Aert. 

“I don’t know how much I can help Wout [van Aert],” laughed Kuss about his role at the Tour. “But again for me it takes a bit of the pressure off. I just need to find my legs for the second half of the race, and I am sure I’ll be good by then.”

The 27-year-old Colorado native has ridden all three Grand Tours since moving to the WorldTour level with Jumbo in 2018. He showcased his climbing talents with three mountain stage wins at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah that year, and then went directly to his first Vuelta a España. 

In his freshman appearance at the Tour de France in 2021 he rode to a pair of top 10 finishes on stages in the Alps. Last year he attacked in the Pyrenees on stage 15 of the Tour and claimed a solo victory in Andorra.

Though not the high mountain terrain in which he thrives, he said the opening three days in Denmark would be important to the team, especially since Vingegaard will get to perform, on home soil.

“The fans have been incredible so far. I think it’ll be a special start. Also, for Jonas on the team [it] is really special, you feel the energy a lot more of the public. Yeah, so it’s really exciting.”

Vingegaard is one of nine Danish riders on the original start lists for the 22 teams and Kuss said the team has looked to him for local advice about the area. What were some of his tips?

“The wind and the open areas and the way the roads are designed, it’s different than other places in Europe and in France. The different roads, they’ll be tricky. There’s a lot of villages to go through, so that will make things complicated.”

“A lot can depend on the wind. We have to get through the stages safely, but also look for opportunities.”

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