Sepp Kuss ready to adapt if Vingegaard misses Tour de France

Despite transitioning from a super domestique to a Grand Tour winner at last summer’s Vuelta a España, Sepp Kuss maintains that leading at the Tour de France is a different challenge entirely. Kuss aligns with Visma DS Grischa Niermann, who told Cyclingnews that their plan A remains for Jonas Vingegaard to recover from injury in time to lead the Dutch team at the Tour.

Kuss believes that for Visma-Lease a Bike to secure a third consecutive Tour de France victory, having Vingegaard at the starting line is crucial. The two-time defending champion is currently at altitude camp in Tignes, working his way back from injury. In the meantime, Kuss co-leads Visma at the Critérium du Dauphiné with fellow American Matteo Jorgenson.

“Of course, it would change a bit [his Tour status]. I would hope that Jonas could do the Tour; I think that gives us all a bigger purpose,” Kuss told reporters in Gannat ahead of stage 2 in France. “For me, it’s easier there with Jonas than just on my own for sure. But if he isn’t there, then I’m ready to adapt but then you have to adjust the expectations a bit.”

Kuss remains relaxed for now, despite the absence of Vingegaard at the Dauphiné and the Tour being just 26 days away. He appeared calm during the opening two stages of the eight-day race, nearly missing the départ fictif on stage 1 to speak with the media. This is his first race back since the Itzulia Basque Country in April, where Vingegaard suffered a significant injury.

Sepp Kuss and the Tour de France Leadership

The American is careful not to set specific goals for the Tour de France, especially with Vingegaard’s participation still uncertain. When asked about his potential finish, Kuss replied with a smile, “I have no idea. It depends on so many things. I always want to shoot for the best but in the Tour, you have to be realistic. It’s the hardest race to win and the hardest race to be on the podium.”

While Kuss is unsure how his current form will translate to the Florence Grand Depart on 29 June, he is prepared to seize any opportunity that comes his way. “I just have to see in the moment how I feel and I think I know myself well enough – when I have the legs or not, and it’s still a ways away until the Tour to see actually how it’s going there,” said the 29-year-old from Durango. “If I see the opportunity there I’ll go for it.”

Kuss finished in the group of leaders on stage 2 of the Dauphiné and currently sits equal sixth. Jorgenson has moved up to third overall as the pair aim for overall victory. However, Kuss acknowledges the 34km time trial on stage 4 isn’t his strong suit, admitting, “I’m going to lose quite some time most likely.”

Although Kuss defended his Vuelta lead in the time trial last year, this disadvantage will be even greater at the Tour. The 2024 parcours includes 59 kilometres of flat-ish time trials on stage 7 and the final time trial from Monaco to Nice, favouring riders like Tadej Pogačar, Primož Roglič, and Remco Evenepoel.

Kuss’ best result at the Tour is 12th overall from last year, where a crash on stage 20 prevented a top-10 finish. In that race, Vingegaard’s dominance in the tough and hot Cote de Domancy time trial stood out. He remains Visma’s prime option against a top-form Pogačar, who excelled in the Giro d’Italia’s time trials and has repeatedly outperformed on the most challenging climbs.

While Kuss could become the main option, Visma’s focus is on Vingegaard returning near 100% to aim for a Tour de France hat-trick and prevent Pogačar from achieving a historic Giro-Tour double.