Feature - Sepp Kuss: My biggest ambition is really just to learn
Aug 14 2018 09:17 pm CET

Feature - Sepp Kuss: My biggest ambition is really just to learn
Feature - Sepp Kuss: My biggest ambition is really just to learn
Sepp Kuss © Mary Cárdenas / CyclingPub.com

LottoNL-Jumbo's Sepp Kuss may well be one of the most exciting prospects in US cycling at the moment, having impressed with three stage wins and the overall victory at the Tour of Utah last week.

The 23-year-old has taken full advantage of the experience gained in European races since joining his Dutch team at the start of this year, and his performance in Utah has also earned him a spot in the upcoming Vuelta a España.

CyclingPub.com had the pleasure of speaking with the rider earlier this season, as he was preparing for his first races with LottoNL-Jumbo. Kuss had only recently made the switch from his previous team, Rally Cycling, leaving behind his life in the Rocky Mountains.

"I'm from Durango, Colorado. But I've been living in Boulder, Colorado for five years. A good cycling area. This past winter it hardly snowed at all. usually it's snowy but the air is dry so it never gets super cold. It's not too hard to train there. Maybe a few weeks of snow but it's good for skiing so you can always mix it up," he said.

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Sepp Kuss (LottoNL-Jumbo)

"Most of my role models, growing up in Durango which has big history with mountain biking, are guys like John Tomac, Ned Overend, Tod Wells. Those were my big role models growing up. John Tomac was an amazing mountain biker and a great road rider as well so it was kind of cool to see people like him."

While still getting used to his new environment, Kuss was happy to join a team at the WorldTour level. "We're really well taken care of. We have two great chefs and all the soigneurs are very helpful. It's more than I could have imagined. Everything is really great.

"There are just many more resources. The team has a really rich history. They know what they're doing as they've been around for a long time. It's good to know that I'm in good hands with people who know the importance of the small details. There's tons of experience."

Kuss believes that LottoNL-Jumbo is a good team for young riders like himself to ease into cycling at the top level, without experiencing too much pressure.

"They give the young riders really good races, like WorldTour level races which for the first few years will be a very high level and hard to get results in, but it's important to have the quality races. It's a really good mix of high level races and lower level races where you can still get result. Aside from the schedule, all the materials are really good. From the technical aspect, they look at everything so you can always maximize every little bit which is really nice."

With German blood on one side and Italian and Slovenian on the other, learning new languages should not be too much of a problem for the American at LottoNL-Jumbo.

"It's nice that they can always return to English because they're all very good at English. But it's also a good motivation to be more proficient in Dutch. It's a hard language but it's good being with the team, even when they're speaking Dutch because you can start to be immersed in it and pick up some words. But there's still a lot of work to do in the language department. I speak a little bit of German and a little bit of Spanish. I'm not fully fluent in any but enough to get around. I guess I should add Dutch to that list.

"I learned German when I was really young. My mom's side of the family was German and she would always speak German to me when I was young. Then I took German and Spanish in school. But then when I went to university I didn't take any languages so they escaped me a little bit. Now I have to get back on track. It comes back to me when I'm there."

Kuss has a background in mountain biking, which he believes gives him certain advantages as a road cyclist as well.

"Bike handling skills, kind of, because you have to be a good bike handler when mountain biking but the speed is so different from mountain biking to road biking. In mountain biking you're not around 200 people at once, going very fast. So it's different but I think the basic bike handling skills are really helpful. And mountain biking is very explosive so it really helps with the explosive moments in the race when the pace is very up and down. Those are important things I got from mountain biking. And the ability to suffer and go deep is also important. But it's also a very different discipline."

Another big difference between the two types of cycling is the team aspect, which is something Kuss also enjoys. "I do like it. On the mountain bike it's very much an individual effort. There are no aerodynamics or drafting, and no strategy at all. Well, there is, but on the road from the first minute to the last minute of the race there are so many pieces you have to put together with the team to actually make the result and compete with other teams. I think that's really exciting."

The last years have not been all about cycling, as Kuss also found the time to complete his education. "I finished my degree at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in May of 2017. I was in advertising. There's a lot you can do with it in sports and many different fields."

Having this background, Kuss has a specific way of looking at the sport of cycling. "For me, at the end of the day it's a commercial endeavour. Not that it's purely commercial but you depend on sponsors for the livelihood of the team. So, it's important to advertise, whether that's riding in a race or doing things that get people interested or tell a story in what you're doing. That may separate you as a team or a rider from other teams or products. That's something that is really exciting with cycling and advertising."

It has been quite a ride for Kuss, to move from the amateur level to the top level in cycling in just a few years' time. "The past two, three years have been a highlight. Before, I took cycling seriously but it wasn't like I saw myself ever being a professional. I thought I would do it for fun while I pursued my career. I always put more focus on my education and completing that first, and then see where things went. Then I decided to try road cycling and it turned out to be good. The last few years have been all surprises and exceeding what I expected was possible. It's been really fun.

"It was a surprise (to be approached by a WorldTeam) but I was confident in myself as I did all the hard training. I felt good in the races and I felt motivated to make the next step. It's still a huge jump but as long as I'm excited to live and race in Europe it's gonna be good. I was happy that the work I put in resulted in good things.

"My biggest ambition is really just to learn as much as possible and not put too much pressure on myself. Of course you need some pressure but no expectations for specific results. Just learn as much as I can and help our leaders out and then I'd like to target the races we do in the US where maybe I'll be more capable of getting a result. I think mostly it'll be learning and all new experiences."

By Jonathan Roorda





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