Sepp Kuss takes aim at Grand Tour leadership in 2024

2023 Vuelta a España champion Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma)
2023 Vuelta a España champion Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Vuelta a España champion Sepp Kuss has said that he's happy to be "more a helper" at next year's Tour de France, though depending on the route he could take aim at a GC placing himself.

Despite recently becoming a Grand Tour winner, the US rider is widely expected to be back in his usual super-domestique role for Jonas Vingegaard next July.

He finished 12th at the 2023 Tour, often racing among the GC contenders "without really thinking about it" he told Escape Collective last week. The route of next summer's race from Tuscany to Nice will be announced next week, and depending on circumstances, his role could range from helper to co-leader.

"I think the thing I'm most looking forward to is going to the Vuelta being the defending champion, and also going to the Tour and doing my best there, whether it's for myself or for Jonas," he said.

"I'm happy to, given the circumstances, be more of a helper in the Tour, because depending on the route, it's not ideal for me. [2023] was a bit of an exception; it was a pretty good route for me and just by virtue of doing my job I was with the best guys in the GC for a while, while not really even thinking about it.

"So, we'll see what the route is like in the Tour, maybe it's something that I can go for."

Kuss, who won the Vuelta ahead of Vingegaard and departing teammate Primož Roglič amidst a seemingly-awkward intra-team truce in the final week, said that he's switched up his mindset heading into Grand Tours to some extent.

He noted that he might've previously gone into Grand Tours with the mindset of losing time to save energy and work for team leaders. However, encouragement from both his wife and his teammate Vingegaard has seen Kuss become more comfortable in what he called a "shadow leader" role.

"Jonas, especially, he's more of a verbal leader. So, it's more his nature, but he really coached me in certain situations, when I needed to be at the front," he said.

"And, just from his experience, winning two Tours in a row, you have to be really sharp every day, and he really helped me stay on top of things where I'm normally kind of checked out.

"Now I know that I'm capable of winning a Grand Tour. And that definitely gives me a lot of confidence. I know that I can take my body to that level and also my mind to that level – like I can survive the three weeks of pressure and everything."

Kuss said that he learned to be "a bit more cutthroat, more selfish" as he won the Vuelta. The change in mentality as a rider makes the switch from domestique to leader is a big one, and one that he said he's keen not to let change him as a person.

"I think it depends on what situation I'm in," Kuss said. "I think if I'm trying to win the race, I've learned I need to be a bit more cutthroat, more selfish if you will. You really have to just focus on you – for better or for worse.

"Because I think there were a lot of situations I put myself in in the Vuelta where I was still in the mindset of a teammate or a guy that didn't have that killer instinct. And it still worked for me, and I was proud of how I did it and how I handled it.

"But I also realise that a lot of the, let's say, winners have a different mentality than me and I have to find that balance without losing who I am as a person."

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