Happy birthday Sepp Kuss!!!
Your good friends and teammates Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic have a special gift for you on your special day, when you’re oh-so close to winning your first grand tour.
Can you guess what it is? They’re going to drop you on L’Angliru and try to take the red jersey off your back for the second day in a row.
Yesterday it was Vingegaard taking a minute out of Kuss and drawing to within 28 seconds. Today, it was Roglic and Vingegaard riding away from their teammate in the red jersey for no reason other than self-interest. They had no rivals to close down or worry about. Enric Mas (Movistar) and Juan Ayusa (UAE Emirates) had been crushed once again.
What a great party celebration! With teammates like this, who needs enemies? Thanks, guys!
Kuss had to turn himself inside out to retain his jersey by eight seconds. The only man on the Altu de L’Angliru who gave him a hand was Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious), himself trying to erase a two minute deficit and take over fourth on GC from Ayuso.
In an interview just before the stage, Kuss said “Vingegaard and Roglic will help me, they want me to win. But if I crack, they don’t have to wait for me. For me, that’s fair.” As one observer on social media noted, we now have a new definition of cracked — when your teammates just decide to attack you at 5k.
There seems to be a lot of curious double-talk coming out of Jumbo-Visma. According to Kuss, “Half way up the climb Jonas said you’re gong to win.” By win, he meant the Vuelta, but several kilometers later he jumped on Roglic’s wheel and away they went to take more time from the American.
Then past-stage an interviewer asked a smiling Roglic if he knew he and Vingegaard had dropped Kuss. The Slovenian didn’t answer the question, instead falling back on the lame, “I did my own pace. Of course, I said to him, keep fighting and believing.” Kuss, I think, would like to believe in his own teammates.
Imagine this birthday: “I though I had lost the jersey,” said Kuss. “I wasn’t even sad because I gave it the best I could. Strange feelings today but not in a bad way. I didn’t necessarily want to sprint against Landa but I needed to go for the bonus seconds to stay on the podium.” Yes, the one that Roglic and Vingegaard are actively trying to kick you off.
So, a dirty and misshapen chapeau to Jonas and Roglic. One man got his stage win while towing the other to the finishline and closing to within eight seconds. Without Mikel Landa, Jumbo would have an odd celebration tonight — Vingegaard stealing the red jersey on Kuss’ birthday. Can’t get more Judas than that.
Immediate reaction from the cycling media was one of shock and disappointment at Jumbo’s apparent betray on Kuss. Caley Fretz — “You don’t race your own teammates. It’s really as simple as that” said Fretz. “Team leaders have bad moments. When they do, their teams rally around them – they continue to be a team. They don’t attack each other. That was pretty shameful.”
Neal Rogers — “Absolutely no need for Roglic and Vingegaard to ride away from Kuss like that other than pure selfishness. None”
Shane Stokes — “Jumbo – Visma: Happy birthday Sepp, we’ll just ride you off our wheel despite having dropped all of your rivals. Not a good look.”
Andrew Hood — “How many times has Kuss eased off to race for the team? He’s paid “to help” (handsomely) – could J-V race to let SK win? Absolutely, but they’re not – why?”
There was something ironic about Sepp Kuss talking with Alberto Contador as he cooled down, post stage. The Spaniard knows first-hand the vicious internal battles within a team during a grand tour. In that case it was Lance Armstrong doing everything he could to take down Contador.
Our best guess is that Vingegaard will finish off Kuss tomorrow and take the red jersey into Madrid. So, let’s leave it to @GCSeppKuss to wrap things up: “I don’t care if Sepp told them to go. You wait. Those two are heartless. See ya Jumbo. Villain arc begun.”