MADRID – A decade later, the United States has another Grand Tour winner.
Sepp Kuss won the Spanish Vuelta on Sunday, becoming the first American to win one of cycling’s top races since Chris Horner took the Vuelta victory in 2013. The other Grand Tour events are the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.
Kuss had effectively secured victory ahead of Sunday’s largely ceremonial stage, when rivals in the Spanish capital respected his lead and, as is usual in cycling, did not launch attacks.
“It’s unbelievable. I think today was the stage that I suffered the most the whole race. Now I’m just glad it’s over,” said Kuss. “It’s definitely life-changing. I think , I will look back on this experience with many fond memories. I’m still trying to figure it out, I think it will take quite a while. Well, a big celebration. Family and friends are here and it will be very special be.”
It was a surprise victory for Kuss, who started the race in a supporting role for his Jumbo Visma teammates Jonas Vingegaard – the two-time Tour de France winner – and Primoz Roglic, a three-time Vuelta winner.
Vingegaard and Roglic finished second and third in the overall standings, capping a dominant performance and a historic treble for Jumbo-Visma, which won all three Grand Tour events this year. Roglic won the Giro d’Italia in May and Vingegaard repeated as Tour de France champion in July.
Kuss crossed the finish line with his teammates, all wearing a special jersey in honor of the team’s triple.
Alpecin-Deceuninck rider Kaden Groves prevailed in the final sprint and won the final stage.
Kuss took the lead in the eighth stage and never relinquished it, even though he was pushed hard by his teammates a few times. The American held his own on difficult climbs at the Col du Tourmalet in France and the Alto de l’Angliru in northern Spain, finishing the three-week race with a lead of 17 seconds.
The 29-year-old from Durango, Colorado, took up cycling as a year-round way to train for his passion, cross-country skiing. But eventually he swapped skis for wheels and was one of the best support riders for Jumbo-Visma for several seasons. Today he lives with his wife in Andorra in the Pyrenees between Spain and France.
The final stage began at the Madrid racecourse and ended with riders doing laps around some of the Spanish capital’s famous monuments.
Kuss took it easy in the peloton and was celebrated by his rivals and fans who lined Madrid’s streets.
Last year’s champion, Remco Evenepoel of Soudal Quick-Step, was crowned King of the Mountains, becoming the first Belgian to win the Vuelta’s most combative rider award. Groves became the first Australian to win the points classification, while 21-year-old Juan Ayuso of Spain was the top young driver.
Organizers announced on Sunday that the 2024 edition of the Vuelta will begin in Portugal, with the cities of Lisbon, Oeiras and Cascais hosting the official start of the race.
In 1997, Lisbon was the first foreign city to host a Vuelta start.