Tour of Utah winner Sepp Kuss readies for next step in career (w/video) |

Tour of Utah winner Sepp Kuss readies for next step in career (w/video)

Sepp Kuss takes in the moment after crossing the Tour of Utah's Stage 6 finish line on Park City's Main Street on Sunday to win the weeklong race. Kuss bested nearly 100 other riders on the tour's final leg, which featured a 78.3-mile ride through Summit and Wasatch counties, to cap off a dominant performance.
Tanzi Propst/The Park Record

Sepp Kuss was late to his own party, but he’d earned it.

On Sunday, the Tour of Utah’s top racers sat at a rectangular table for a press conference at the Treasure Mountain Inn after the race’s conclusion. The only empty chair left at the table was for Kuss, who won the race in a dominating overall performance.

At 23, the win was a milestone for the Colorado competitor. It raised his name from among a long list of hopefuls to a dominant presence at one of America’s most important road races. While other racers and members of the press waited for Kuss to arrive, one competitor remarked it was the first time they had beaten Kuss anywhere all week. The comment wasn’t quite factual, but it was close. Kuss had led the race since Stage 2 in Payson, and commanded the climbs throughout the race.

By the time he crossed the finish line on Park City’s Main Street — his arms outstretched and eyes closed in the falling rain — he had won three stages, taken the King of the Mountain jersey, and won the general competition in one fell swoop.

The result wasn’t shocking, but it wasn’t expected, either. While he was considered a contender, Kuss was up against a strong cast of proven racers, including John Britton, who won the tour last year; Travis McCabe, a two-time winner; and 2015 champion Joe Dombrowski. There was also Tejay Van Garderen, a strong Tour de France competitor, and Ben Hermans, who had recently won the Tour of Austria on July 14, among others.

Riders participating in the Tour of Utah’s fifth stage race over Guardsman Pass and into Big Cottonwood Canyon as they make their way to the finish line at Snowbird Resort Saturday afternoon. (Tanzi Propst/Park Record)

During the final stage of the race, while Kuss lingered in the peleton, waiting to make his move on a failing advanced group that had broken off in a doomed attempt to lose Kuss up Empire Pass, the bicycling news outlet VeloNews reported that the Colorado native’s team director had selected him for competition in the Vuelta a Espa?a, a stage race in Spain — a big step for his career.

Behind the Tour de France, the Vuelta and the Giro d’Italia are the most point-rich races in international road cycling.

The decision to bump Kuss up had been pending for months, but it was clear his Tour of Utah performance had cemented his place among the elite squad. His team director, Sierk Jan de Haan, told VeloNews that Kuss’s race at the Tour of Utah had been “overwhelming.”

When Kuss finally made his way to the end of the table following the final stage on Sunday, and sat beside his competitors, he was calm and collected, if tired.

“I’m excited for it,” he said of the Vuelta, where he will enter the next stage of his career and will support his team leader, George Bennett. “When I found out that it was in the cards a few months ago, it definitely gave me a lot of motivation. It’s going to be super hard. I’ve never done anything like it, so I’ll take it week by week and see how it goes.”

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