Written by Joseph Bonacci, on February 26, 2024

Note from the author: This is the second part of our interview series with Sepp Kuss. Our first part covered his early years from Durango to the Tour of Utah. Here we detail his rise through the European ranks and how he established himself as a go-to Grand Tour rider.

For many cyclists, getting onto a start list for a Grand Tour is a pinnacle achievement but every so often a rider comes along who was born for those three weeks of racing. One such rider is Sepp Kuss, the Durango-born American who you’ll know from his 2023 Vuelta a España victory or for being the last man for Vingegaard in the Visma | Lease a Bike train. We wanted to dive a little deeper into how Kuss went from earning a spot on that first Grand Tour rider to being the clutch teammate for GC victory to becoming only the second rider in history to complete all three Grand Tours in a season AND win one. 

Sepp Leading ROGLIC in the Giro


When we left off, Kuss had just proven himself with his commanding victory in the Tour of Utah. Kuss’s performance earned him a plane ticket to Spain for his premier Grand Tour with the Vuelta in 2018. This year, LottoNL-Jumbo went in riding for Steven Kruijswijk but needed Sepp’s prowess on climbs for the eight mountain top finishes during those three weeks. 

With any big change, there is bound to be an adjustment period. In the span of four-months, Kuss went from being a member of the small Rally Cycling to one of the few selected for Grand Tour glory. 

“It was a big jump. Rally was a good team and a fun team in comparison to a world tour team, but it was really a modest team. So with that, you had a bit more modest objectives or expectations.”

“But then going into the World Tour, I realized that you're there to win races and not much else. Just realizing that and the magnitude of the team, of all the staff, the number of teammates, just everything going on was a lot bigger.”

Sepp leading the Tour de france

All these factors added stress to Kuss’s career taking off, but he gradually learned to work as a team member and focus on supporting the team however he could. Sepp gives a couple people credit for helping him assimilate into the team and the World Tour as a whole.

“When I started with the team, Primoz was starting to win a lot of races and was not just the up-and-comer, but he was going to be the next big thing for the weeklong races and the grand tours. It was cool then to see firsthand how he was doing that and then guys like Robert (Gesink) have been key, not so much as an idol, but as a guy that I could always talk to, always ask for advice and just being a really down to earth guy with me also helped me a lot.”

Without valuable advice from teammates and being able to ride for Roglic for his Vuelta wins from 2019-2021, Kuss would have not progressed as quickly as he did on the UCI World Tour. After the 2018 Vuelta, Sepp became an institution in the team’s climbing lead-out, participating in eight Grand Tours between 2019 and 2022 and all three Grand Tours during 2023. Sepp helped lead Roglic to the top of the GC three times at the Vuelta and once at the Giro and Vingegaard twice at the Tour. Sepp also road to stage wins in the Vuelta in 2019 and the Tour de France in 2021, but mainly focused on helping his compatriots.

Sepp kuss pedalling away from the peloton


Going into 2023, there were discussions around the three Grand Tours, mainly surrounding who the favorites were and who would be the team leader of Jumbo-Visma. While everyone was thinking about Vingegaard and what he could do in the Tour de France, no one was expecting the historic performances allowing for Jumbo-Visma to win all three Grand Tours, impressively with three different riders. 

The strength of Sepp's team set the tone for all of the other teams in each Grand Tour of 2023. Watching each Grand Tour, you see the lead group of 12 riders going into the base of an HC climb, and miraculously Visma usually manages five or six riders still in the group. We wanted to know how it feels for Sepp when he knows that he’s in that group, with more support compared to other teams.

“You always have a better sense of security when you’re surrounded by your teammates and you know if you are having an off day, there is always someone waiting in the wings to take over from you. That security, combined with the team atmosphere that comes when everyone is riding at their top level keeps everyone confident. You see from all the training we do together, working with the mechanics, and working with the coaches that everyone is working together for those moments and those wins.” 

Wout Van Aert winning Mt. Ventoux

Another resource at Visma | Lease a Bike’s disposal is the tank named Wout Van Aert. Anyone who has ever turned on a bike race in the last three years, will have seen that one guy in the yellow kit who can win any Tour de France stage from mountain stages to bunch sprints, and even a time trial on his day. Plus, his palmarès on a cyclocross bike are not to be forgotten. With Van Aert's unique skills as a rider, Ryan asked Kuss what it’s like riding with someone who can change the course of the race at an impulse.

“He’s a guy that wants to win, but never at the expense of the team. I think the way he races, he races to help us ultimately, but sometimes he’ll say ‘I want to win the stage’ and that brings us something too.”

“He is the motivator in the team. He’s the one who is saying, ‘I think we should race this way,’ or ‘Let’s go for it today,’ which is really important. He is the most vocal in that regard.”

“It is also good for us because he can win some stages. Sometimes it is not easy to juggle with him up the road and still try to support our GC guys, but it is really nice when it works out and you come in behind knowing he’s won the stage.”

Wout and Sepp riding together at the Tour de France

With this super team, Kuss rode the Tour de France and the Giro D’Italia as the lieutenant for teammates Vingegaard and Roglic respectively. In the Giro, Kuss fully supported Roglic, going deep for him, which allowed Roglic to be able to win the Maglia Rosa in the final time trial of the Giro. A few weeks later, Kuss headed to France to be able to support Vingegaard’s yellow jersey defense. Without his loyal teammate, Vingegaard would not have dominated. Many times the group was whittled down to Kuss, Vingegaard and Pogacar. Kuss would have to chase Pogacar’s moves to preserve the legs of Jonas. After the commanding victory for the team, Jumbo-Visma set out to make history putting all their eggs in the Vuelta basket to do the unprecedented Grand Tour sweep.


Selecting the best team possible, the Jumbo-Visma team boss sent Kuss, Vingegaard and Roglic to the Vuelta. The narrative going into the race was controlled by a Vingegaard vs Roglic argument, which allowed their dark horse to fly under the radar on Stage 6. Stage 6 featured a fearsome finish on the Javalambre, a climb that Sepp was able to use to his advantage. Going up the road early in the day, the Eagle was able to maintain a gap to the main group and then attack his breakaway companions with 2.5km to go on the stage, taking his 3rd Grand Tour stage win. While this effort wasn’t enough to take the lead, it put him close enough to take it two days later while finishing with the GC favorites.

Sepp riding to the Red Jersey in the Vuelta a Espana

Stage 6 was the day that fans dubbed Sepp, ‘GC Kuss’ as it was the first time we had seen the loyal rider in a leader's position. Even Kuss was telling fans to calm down. Yes he was leading the Vuelta however knowing his form in time trials with two of the best TT riders breathing down his neck, he still knew there was a long way to go. Then Stage 10 happened and it completely changed Kuss’s life.

“For me, the biggest moment of the season was in the time trial. I knew the world was watching me, and I didn’t exactly know how it was going to go, but I just wanted to go for it. I didn’t want to overthink it, and in the end, it ended up being the turning point for me, and for the race. I was suffering a lot, but just knowing how hard I can push myself is something I will always remember.” 

“That was the first day I saw myself winning the Vuelta, because after the time trial I knew I had knocked the hardest parts behind me, and at least I had the stages I would lose time over with. Just looking at my performance there subjectively and objectively, I said, ‘Ok, this shows at least something, and maybe what it takes to hold on until the end.’” 

Sepp held out through the end of the Vuelta keeping the Maillot Rojo to take back to Durango with him. There was one shaky moment on Stage 17 when Vingegaard and Roglic gapped him up the Angliru. It was looking like they might take the win from him but he was able to ride just fast enough to keep his jersey. Many people saw this as a direct dig at Sepp but he never saw it as anything close to that, in fact, the win felt better knowing that he beat Roglic and Vingegaard at their own game.

Training camp Visma Jumbo Lease a Bike

Turning Towards 2024

The focus now turns toward the upcoming season. The Tour de France is always the focal point for the cycling calendar, and with what we know so far, the race should be special this year. With the Olympics in Paris, the Tour de France can not finish on the Champs-Elysées (sorry Cavendish) but will instead finish on a brutal time trail in the mountains around Nice. This effectively adds another stage to the gc race without the usual processional stage into Paris with the race only starting upon entrance into the Champs-Elysées. While the champagne-chugging champion won’t be able to clink glasses with their teammates while riding on the last day, he has an excited outlook on that last day.

“I would always prefer just a normal kind of procession on the last day. But no, I do think it will be exciting to have a battle all the way until the end, especially with the time trial they have planned. It’s going to make really big differences, right on the back of the hard mountains in the third week. It will definitely be something.” 

This year with all the transfers that have occurred, the race for GC will be closer in all the grand tours. Roglic is now on Bora-Hansgrohe, a team full of fast climbers; Ineos Grenadiers will be led by Carlos Rodriguez, an up-and-coming Spaniard who is no slouch on the bike; Evenepoel can always be a threat for Soudal-Quickstep; and who could forget about the Colnago-wielding Pogacar, who lives and trains on the roads of the final stage. For Kuss and Visma | Lease a Bike, it may be a bit more difficult to dominate this year but for cycling fanatics all over we may finally see an intense battle for the coveted jerseys, especially the Yellow in the Tour de France.

“I think this coming year the (Tour de France) route is a lot harder than the route from last year. Especially the third week, and with all these really talented riders spread out among different teams that will be shooting for the Tour.” 

“Given the route, we (Visma | Lease a Bike) know we can’t change much from last year. We know we have the strongest rider with Jonas, but it will be more dynamic tactically with all these strong riders in the race.” 

Visma Lease a Bike kit 2024 season

Kuss and Visma | Lease a Bike are set up ideally for the coming race season. While they may not have the grip on the peloton they had last year, the addition of more strong teams will just add to the excitement. Additionally, the conflicting Olympic Road Race will pull some of the guys who will want individual glory, which will add more climbers and some younger riders to get their shot in the Tour de France.

Outside of Sepp, there are many other young American’s who will be fun to follow on the World Tour throughout the season. Joining Kuss on Visma | Lease a Bike is Idaho native Matteo Jorgenson, an up-and-comer who was a frequent breakaway threat last year, riding to multiple podiums, but never managing a win. Keep an eye on Riley Sheehan, the 23-year-old racing for Israel Premier Tech that shocked everyone by winning Paris-Tours. Along with Luke Lamperti, who just signed to Soudal-Quickstep to kick off his pro career. 


Sepp Kuss has become one of the most prominent racers in the world with his cheerful attitude, but more importantly his incredible speed on the climbs. Thank you to Sepp, Visma | Lease a Bike, and our friends at Cervelo for making this interview possible. Watch out for the third part of this series, where we will go through all of Sepp’s component choices, preferences and even give you a secret about Vingegaard.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published