MADRID—A decade later, the United States has a Grand Tour winner again.
Sepp Kuss won the Spanish Vuelta on Sunday to become the first American to win one of cycling’s top races since Chris Horner earned the Vuelta victory in 2013. The other Grand Tour events are the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.
Kuss had effectively secured the victory ahead of Sunday’s largely ceremonial stage, when rivals in the Spanish capital respected his lead and did not launch any attacks as per cycling tradition.
“It’s incredible. I think today was the stage that I suffered the most of the whole race, now I’m just glad it’s over,” Kuss said. “It’s life-changing for sure. I think I’ll look back on this experience with a lot of fun memories. It’s still sinking in, I think it’s gonna take quite some time. Now, a big celebration. Family, friends are here, and that’s gonna be really special.”
It was a surprising victory for Kuss, who entered the race in a supporting role to 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 overall, respectively, capping a dominant performance and a historic treble for Jumbo-Visma, which swept 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 line along with his teammates, who were all wearing a special jersey in honor of the team’s treble.
Alpecin-Deceuninck rider Kaden Groves prevailed in the final sprint to win the last stage.
Kuss took the lead in the eighth stage and never relinquished it despite being pushed hard by his teammates a few times. The American held his own on difficult climbs up the Col du Tourmalet in France and the Alto de l’Angliru in northern Spain, ending the three-week race with a 17-second advantage.
The 29-year-old from Durango, Colorado, started cycling as a way to train all year for his passion of cross-country skiing. But he eventually changed the skis for wheels and has for several seasons featured as one of the top support riders for Jumbo-Visma. He now lives in Andorra with his wife in the Pyrenees Mountains nestled between Spain and France.
The final stage began at Madrid’s horse-racing track and ended with riders taking laps around some of the iconic monuments in the Spanish capital.
Kuss took it easy within 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, ended as King of the Mountains and became the first Belgian to win the Vuelta’s most combative award. Groves became the first Australian to win the points standings, while 21-year-old Juan Ayuso of Spain was the best young rider.
Organizers announced Sunday that the 2024 edition of the Vuelta will begin in Portugal, with the cities of Lisbon, Oeiras and Cascais hosting the race’s official start.
Lisbon was the first foreign city to host a Vuelta start back in 1997.
Image credits: AP