© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images
Sepp Kuss' Vuelta a España victory was confirmed in Madrid on Sunday
‘He’s a role model to all the young Americans’ - peloton compatriots react to Sepp Kuss’ Vuelta a España victory
Warbasse, Dombrowski and Quinn look to future of US cycling after first men’s Grand Tour win in a decade
Racing News Editor
In some ways, Sepp Kuss’ Vuelta a España win is the ending of a drought, a ten-year stretch without a US rider on the top step of a men’s Grand Tour, brought to a close in Madrid on Sunday. But for his fellow American riders at this year’s race, the Coloradan’s victory isn’t so much an end, but the beginning of something.
That’s because, in the eyes of his compatriots in the Vuelta peloton - both those more experienced than him, and those just making their way into Grand Tour racing - Kuss is just the tip of an iceberg that contains a swelling generation of talented US riders.
“I think it’s kind of cool, because it’s sort of like the second coming of American cycling maybe,” Larry Warbasse of AG2R Citroën told GCN. “We see so many great young guys now, you have Matteo [Jorgenson], you have Brandon [McNulty], Neilson [Powless] is smashing it, so if Sepp could win a Grand Tour that’s so cool and I think it’s just going to be the start of a really awesome generation of young American cyclists.”
Of the three other American riders in the race, Warbasse and Joe Dombrowski (Astana Qazaqstan) - 33 and 32 respectively - are past their era of being up-and-coming talent, but the third US rider, Sean Quinn, has been firmly ensconced in the coming generation of American cyclists for several years.
Though this Vuelta - the 23-year-old’s first Grand Tour - has been more of a learning experience than a break-out race for Quinn, he echoed the feeling of significance at Kuss’ win.
“It’s pretty cool,” Quinn said. “I think we have a couple of promising young guys coming up. Obviously, we’ve had a long drought, but yeah I’m happy to get it out of the way."
These riders have raced their whole careers, from juniors onwards, without an American Grand Tour winner. Now, they know it can be done, and they have a rider to look towards.
“As far as Sepp goes, he’s such an awesome guy and he’s a role model to all the young Americans,” Quinn added. “And he should be to everyone - just the way he carries himself and the way he works for his team. To see him winning is really just great for everyone I think.”
What it means back home in the US
Whilst the happiness among Kuss’ compatriots in the race is palpable, what does it mean for cycling fans back home? The red jersey has spoken regularly about the support in his hometown of Durango, Colorado, and it's certain that American cycling fans are revelling in the moment.
“I’m pretty sure there are a lot of people that will be really happy, both back home in the US and even here inside the peloton,” Warbasse said. “I think a lot of guys are rooting for Sepp, he’s really one of the good dudes, so it will be really cool if he wins.”
The hope, however, is that it won’t just be a morale boost for American riders and fans, but could actually lead to some change in US cycling. As Dombrowski points out, though, the Vuelta is not quite the Tour, and this might not cut through in quite the same way that a yellow jersey win would.
“Hopefully we’ll see a nice bump [in US cycling],” the 32-year-old said. “I think the hard thing is, in the US, the only thing that anyone knows is the Tour. You could win the Giro, Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix and whatever, and it’s not that your average American knows what that is or really cares. That’s not to take anything away from winning any Grand Tour or Classic or whatever, but just the nature of the sport.
“At the minimum, it would just be nice to see some US races come back, because right now we have nothing, and those were nice to have on the calendar.”
Read more: The jerseys of the Vuelta a España explained
A popular rider in the peloton
As both Warbasse and Quinn said, an added factor in the popularity of Kuss’ win is just how well-liked in the peloton he is, perhaps not something previous American Grand Tour winners have enjoyed to the same extent.
As well as his compatriots, riders like Geraint Thomas and Juan Ayuso have also expressed their partiality to Kuss, and it’s easy to tell that many riders in the peloton see him as ‘one of them’ - an underdog, a likeable character, a good guy.
- Geraint Thomas: 'Roglič isn't going to win the Vuelta a España, Kuss deserves more respect'
- Chris Horner: Jumbo-Visma backed Sepp Kuss in Vuelta a España due to fans' outcry and PR nightmare
“I’d like to see him win just because I like him,” Dombrowski put it simply.
“He’s a really really nice guy, and a really friendly guy, and he just seems like a chiller,” Warbasse said. “He seems like a good dude, not too stressed out, just takes it how it goes. To see a guy like that capable of winning a Grand Tour is pretty cool."
The Vuelta a España may be over, but there's still plenty of time to catch up on any racing you might have missed, with on-demand coverage and highlights available on GCN+. As for news, standings and race reports, make sure to check out our Vuelta a España landing page.