The native of Durango had a good performance in the Tour de France
The final stage of the Tour de France is different from most cycling races. The day begins with the race leader and other important riders riding smoothly, posing for photos with their teammates as they ride, as if it was a parade rather than a race.
This is what Durango-born professional cyclist Sepp Kuss did on Sunday afternoon, hours away from finishing his second career on the Tour de France.
Although the overall winner of the competition is already sorted in the last stage, there is still a sprint on the Champs-Élysées, as the peloton arrives in Paris, the pace picks up as the riders seek a last chance. of victory. After 21 days and over 2,000 miles of racing, runners have to practice one last time.
“You’re just counting the laps until it’s over,” Kuss said in an interview this week with The Herald Durango. “Then you know you can celebrate and be happy with your teammates and what you’ve all been through together, whether you’ve won or lost or whatever. I think it’s special for everyone to end up there in Paris.
Kuss’s three weeks in France were full of wins and losses. The obvious highlight for the 26-year-old was the victory of Stage 15, which ended in his adopted country Andorra. In addition, his teammate Wout van Aert won three stages, including the final in Paris. But the race also saw several Kuss Jumbo-Visma teammates drop out due to injuries.
At the start of the race, Kuss’s main goal in the race was to support his teammate Primoz Roglic, last year’s runner-up and race favorite for this year’s edition. However, Roglic was forced to withdraw from the Tour with severe bruising and a rash after a series of accidents.
There were still plenty of opportunities for his team to thrive, however. Step 15 presented a course that might suit Kuss’s abilities; a steep climb was followed by a meteoric descent to the finish line in Andorra, where Kuss and many of his teammates live.
The Durangoan launched their attack on the final climb and kept a 20 second lead as they climbed over the summit. He maintained his lead over Spaniard Alejandro Valverde to become the first American to win a stage in the French race since 2011.
“It was a really special day and it’s cool to know that you won a stage in the Tour de France,” said Kuss. “But I think that as cyclists you are already looking for the next thing, the next goal, and you always have a pretty short memory. This day already seems so far away. You’re already thinking about the next race or what you’re going to do almost the next day, so yes it is, I guess it’s pretty fleeting.
After the day’s podium ceremony and the interviews were over, Kuss focused again on helping teammates like Jonas Vingegaard, who finished second overall. Even though Kuss’s day in the spotlight has been fleeting, his friends and family in Durango remain ecstatic.
“It must have been so cool,” said Chad Cheeney, co-founder of the Durango Devo program that coached Kuss as a young mountain biker.
“I think someone told me that (NBC commentator) Bob Roll mentioned Devo and he must be good downhill if he’s from Durango Devo or something,” Cheeney said. “I just knew it had to be a pretty drastic descent to victory.”
Since rising through the ranks of national and international professional cycling, Kuss has established a base in Andorra, a small country located between France and Spain.
“This step meant a lot to him with the adoption of Andorra as his new home,” said Sabina Kuss, Sepp’s mother. “He is building a house there, and his girlfriend and his family were there, so he said that it really motivated him to know that he was going on his adopted country roads and that he saw his Spanish family there. “
The COVID-19 pandemic and a busy professional life have kept Kuss away from Durango in recent years, but his parents are able to keep up with him by watching the races that are broadcast.
“We’re always excited about the bike race he’s competing in,” said Sepp’s dad, Dolph Kuss. “We all watch them.”
Sabina Kuss adds that the end of the Tour brings a bittersweet feeling.
“We got to see him every morning for three weeks,” she said. “Now we can’t wake up in the morning and see Sepp. But I’m just so glad he finished his tour without any injuries or rashes or anything. He is in great shape to start his Vuelta in about a month.
After the Tour, many cyclists immediately boarded a plane to Tokyo for the cycling events of the Olympic Games. Kuss had made the prior decision not to participate in the Games, focusing instead on the Tour and La Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain).
“I assumed they (USA Cycling) would want me to go just considering the route and how much climbing there was,” Kuss said of the Tokyo Games. “Already in winter, knowing what my schedule would be, I didn’t really want to go. And, yeah, I mean, even at this point, I don’t regret not going so much.
With riders leaving for Tokyo and others having already dropped out of the race, the post-race celebrations in Paris were muted compared to other years, but Kuss still had a chance to hit the city.
“At our dinner we only had three runners, but it was a great evening,” he said. “Lots of runner families and staff had come to Paris, and we all met at the Dutch embassy there, so it was a nice setting and, you know, speeches and everything. and a good party. ”
Reactions from the Durango community increased over the course of the three weeks of racing, especially after Kuss’ victory on stage 15.
“Well done to Sepp Kuss,” Todd Wells, a former mountain bike Olympian, wrote on social media. “Huge winning race today in its European home port of Andorra.”
“Thank you Sepp Kuss for making Durango and America proud by winning today’s Tour de France stage,” wrote friend and professional mountain biker Payson McElveen. “This morning’s tears of joy erased my own (racing) frustrations and reinvigorated my enthusiasm to start working hard again.”
“He has a lot of fans in Durango,” Dolph Kuss said. “Everyone I talk to is always excited about his ride and they love to watch bike races. In fact, a lot of people have become more interested in bike racing since Sepp has competed in it for the past two years. “
“People say, ‘Tell Sepp we’re cheering him on’ or ‘Tell Sepp a great job,’” Sabina added. “I always pass this on to Sepp, and you can just feel him smile and he always says, ‘Well, I really appreciate that. “So he’s really aware of that. He has a close community in Durango that supports him.
A stronghold of support is the Durango Devo program, where Kuss made his debut as a competitive mountain biker. Devo athletes learned of Kuss’ victory at the National Mountain Bike Championships in Winter Park, where several Durangoans achieved victories and podium performances.
Kuss serves as a role model and concrete example for Devo athletes, ages 2-18.
“He’s just a banner guy and he has a big outlook on life,” Cheeney said. “Just being around people, he can do it. These things go a long way in a role model. He hasn’t been here a lot in recent years, but when he comes home he’s pretty comfortable going out and talking to the kids so it’s great.
For his part, Kuss says aspiring runners should follow their passions and have fun doing it.
“If they can learn anything from me, it’s just to enjoy riding a bike and doing it because you love it. This is what I try to show every time I run or that workout I put in results. It’s always about love and fun, and I think that’s the main message they should get from what I do, because at the end of the day, that’s what it takes to be. at this level, it’s just really having a passion for it.