GUADARRAMA, Spain (AP) — Sepp Kuss is poised to become the first American to win one of cycling’s Grand Tours in a decade after protecting his lead in the Spanish Vuelta on the final day of competition Saturday.
Kuss maintained his 17-second lead over Jumbo-Visma teammate Jonas Vingegaard during the 20th and penultimate stage.
Kuss will wear the leader’s red jersey ahead of Sunday’s final stage, as cycling custom dictates that title rivals respect the leader’s advantage at the largely ceremonial finish in Madrid.
The last American to win one of the three-week cycling races, which in addition to the Vuelta and the Tour includes the Giro d’Italia, was 2013 Vuelta winner Chris Horner.
Wout Poels won the 208-kilometer (129-mile) ride from Manzanares El Real to Guadarrama on Saturday.
Kuss crossed the finish line flanked by Vingegaard and teammate Primoz Roglic, the three exchanging handshakes and patting each other on the back as they covered the final meters.
Jumbo-Visma came into the race that started last month as the team to beat.
Not only is the Dutch team poised to monopolize the podium in Madrid with Kuss, Vingegaard and Roglic on track to finish 1-2-3, but Jumbo-Visma is also poised to sweep all three Grand Tours this year after Roglic won the Giro. d’Italia in May and Vingegaard repeated as Tour champion in July.
The trio’s closest challenger was Spaniard Juan Ayuso, leader of UAE Team Emirates, who was more than two minutes behind Roglic in third position in the general classification.
Kuss, a 29-year-old from Durango, Colorado, took up cycling as a year-round workout for his passion of cross-country skiing. But he eventually replaced skis with wheels and established himself for several seasons as one of Jumbo-Visma’s best support riders. He now lives in Andorra, in the Pyrenees, nestled between Spain and France.
He arrived at this Vuelta to once again help Vingegaard and Roglic – who won three consecutive editions of the Vuelta before crashing out last year – into the mountains and position one of them to aim for the title.
Instead, Kuss took the lead on stage eight and didn’t relinquish it, holding firm on the massive climbs of Col du Tourmalet in France and Alto de l’Angliru in northern Spain . And he clung to his diminishing advantage as Vingegaard and Roglic attempted to overtake him with stage victories this week.
The two stars, however, ultimately changed strategy and rode for Kuss on stage 18, the final demanding mountain event of the race. Vingegaard said after that stage that it was “really nice to be able to pay Sepp back. He did so much for me and Primoz.
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