Primož Roglič: 'If you want to win the Vuelta a España, you take Sepp Kuss'

Slovenian and teammate Jonas Vingegaard hint at a leadership trident with Sepp Kuss

Clock07:53, Friday 25th August 2023
Primož Roglič: 'I like the race, it is relaxed a bit more and there are always lots of supporters'

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Primož Roglič: 'I like the race, it is relaxed a bit more and there are always lots of supporters'

Heading into the Vuelta a España, most of the talk around the Jumbo-Visma team focuses on the so-called dilemma of juggling dual leadership between Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard, but both riders have cast the spotlight on Sepp Kuss and hinted at a three-pronged approach.

“We definitely have a strong team and it’s not really necessary now to say whether it is me or Jonas in front,” insisted Roglič, “but we all need to realise the fact that we want to win the Vuelta at the end - it could also be Sepp Kuss, he is also part of the team.”

Read more: Analysing Jumbo-Visma's Vuelta a España team

Indeed, Kuss has flirted with a GC bid in recent years - albeit accidentally - racking up eighth place at the 2021 Vuelta a España and two top 15 finishes at the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France this season.

The American is undoubtedly one of the best climbers in the world and the lack of individual time trial kilometres in this year’s Vuelta a España will surely suit him. But with 6,756.7km of Grand Tour racing already in his legs this year, any genuine hope of him mounting a challenge for the podium is surely fanciful.

Kuss’ value will instead be seen in the riding he does on behalf of his two leaders, having helped bring Jumbo-Visma to the cusp of history at this year’s Vuelta. The 28-year-old is the only team member this season to have been part of both the team’s Giro d’Italia win with Roglič, and Tour de France victory with Vingegaard.

As they look towards Spain, the Dutch outfit have ambitions of becoming the first team in history to win all three Grand Tours in the same season, and they are well aware of Kuss’ importance to this plan.

“For sure, Sepp is one of the best climbers in the world and he is one of the super-important domestiques,” acknowledged Vingegaard. “You can see his stats, he has been on all the winning Grand Tours teams for our team, so he is for sure very important. But I think every teammate is super important as well.”

Roglič was rather more blunt in his recognition of the 28-year-old’s significance.

“If you want to win, you take Sepp with you.”

Three-time winner Roglič has good memories of the Vuelta a España

In light of Kuss’ remarkable tilt at racing all three Grand Tours as the peloton’s most valuable domestique, and Roglič’s own track record of racing two Grand Tours each year dating back to 2019, the Slovenian was equally as candid when pressed about any wisdom of riding multiple Grand Tours they may imbue on Vingegaard.

“From my point of view, it is just a lot nicer to come here and race than being at home and training,” remarked Roglič. “It’s simple, it is more fun.”

The Giro d’Italia champion’s straight-forward responses were a characteristic of Thursday’s press conference, leading to one of the more humorous assessments of why a rider such as Roglič keeps on riding the Vuelta year after year - this will be the 33-year-old’s fifth participation in a row.

“I have no option, it’s the last Grand Tour, so I have to be here,” chuckled Roglič with a wry smile. The answer alludes to his laid-back approach which is rather symbiotic with the relaxed nature of the year’s final Grand Tour.

“I have nice memories from this fun race, it is always interesting in terms of the finals and there is always action from the very start - you don’t need to wait until the last week. Hopefully, we can take some positives out of the past editions and have fun starting from Saturday.”

Jumbo-Visma dream of a 1-2 finish in Madrid to round off an incredible season

One of Roglič’s more enjoyable memories may well be the 2020 edition, in which he retained his Vuelta title for the first time and was supported along the way by a young Danish teammate making his very first start at a Grand Tour. As it would prove, the 2020 Vuelta would be the last time that Vingegaard rode in complete service to his more experienced teammate.

At the following year’s Tour de France, both men were in the top 10 after six days of racing, but a week-one crash from Roglič would rule the Slovenian out of the race and see Vingegaard thrust into the role of leadership for the first time. It was a role he duly embraced, finishing second to Tadej Pogačar in Paris and proving the only man who could land a blow on the UAE Team Emirates superstar - having briefly dropped Pogačar on Mont Ventoux.

Vingegaard’s position as a leader on the team was thus ensured and the pair’s co-leadership roles at the Vuelta will not be a first, as pointed out by Vingegaard.

It’s not the first time we tried it, we tried it already a few times before I think it already went pretty well. We work super well together and we are also looking forward to being here,” maintained the Dane. “I don’t think we have to decide [on a singular leader], we will see on the road and help each other.”

“The main goal here is to win, we’re not racing against each other, we’re racing with each other.”

Of course, given the pedigree of this year’s Grand Tour winners, it is not out of the realms of possibility that Vingegaard and Roglič may well finish on the top two steps of the podium come the end of stage 21 in Madrid, an outcome that Vingegaard acknowledged would be a dream for Jumbo-Visma.

“I would say it would be pretty amazing if we could be first and second here as well,” Vingegaard beamed, no doubt thinking back to their previous 1-2 finishes at the 2021 Itzulia Basque Country and 2022 Critérium du Dauphiné. “It would be a luxury problem, I would say! Of course, the main goal is to win the red jersey, but we are two leaders and if it is a possibility, then for sure we will take it.”

“Yes I agree, it would be pretty sweet worries for the team! If only it would be so easy…” tittered his Slovenian counterpart.

We’ll be showing live and on-demand coverage of all 21 stages of this year’s Vuelta a España from Saturday, August 26 to Sunday, September 17, plus daily expert analysis on The Breakaway. Head over to GCN+ now to check the start times of each broadcast so that you don’t miss out on a moment of the action! As always, territory restrictions will apply.

If you head to our Vuelta a España landing page, you will find everything you need to know ahead of the race, including our race preview, the route, start list and individual stage previews. Check it out for all that and more.

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