Sepp Kuss was supposed to come back to earth today.
A climber on a pan flat time trial course, there was a high probability he’d lose two minutes, easy. Even though he was wearing the red jersey of race leader, the world order would be restored and Kuss would return to his customary role as a mountain domestique.
As Clint Eastwood said in a Dirty Harry movie long ago, “a man’s got to know his limitations.” Kuss is not a top rider against the clock so let’s not expect an out-of-the-world performance.
Jumbo-Visma talked Kuss up as a serious GC threat along with Giro Winner Primoz Roglic and Tour champion Jonas Vingegaard. But most of that was just to put extra tactical pressure on Remco Evenepoel. The two-headed threat had become a three-headed monster.
Nevertheless, the expectation for the day was that Sepp Kuss would do his best, drop two minutes and lose the jersey. Except he didn’t.
Kuss finished a surprising 13th place in the TT. Enough to stay in the red jersey thanks to lead of 26 seconds on Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) and 1:09 over Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quickstep). Enough to keep putting the psychological pressure on the Belgian star.
You might think Kuss would be under a but of pressure himself. That wasn’t the case. “It was really nice, I didn’t feel so nervous, I just wanted to enjoy the day. No matter what happened, I knew it would be an unforgettable experience – being the last guy on the start ramp, wearing the red jersey and with all the guys cheering you on,” said Kuss. That really gave me a lot of power today.”
It was such an impressive ride that he even received kudos from the World Time Trial champion himself. “I think [Jumbo-Visma] told [Kuss] to just go all out today to try and not lose too much time because I think they want to play the game with three leaders,” said Evenepoel. “I think he did a very good job and, like I said, a big chapeau to him because I was pretty surprised when I saw this finish.”
In other words, they are playing the Vuelta a Espana card game and feel like they have a pretty strong hand. “We have to play our cards with the three of us because Soudal may be a bit weak in the mountains. If we can isolate Remco, we can do something with that,” said Kuss.
“So much can happen in the mountains. In the first half of a Grand Tour, it’s always a game of seconds. But then, in one stage [of the second part], you can blow up.”
We look forward to seeing things blow up in the Pyrenees. Look out, Remco!