Sepp Kuss emerged from 2020 as one of the star support riders currently racing at the highest level.
After a breakthrough season in 2019, when he won his first Grand Tour stage at the Vuelta a España and helped Primož Roglič to overall victory, Kuss became an even more vital cog in the Jumbo-Visma machine last season.
The US rider lined up in all of the team’s major targets for the year – the Critérium du Dauphiné, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España – and proved himself to be one of the strongest climbers on all three races.
Kuss’ performances in 2020 raised the inevitable question of general classification leadership, and whether the 26-year-old will one day be a Grand Tour contender himself.
Speaking from the recent Jumbo-Visma training camp in Spain Kuss, from Colorado, said: “Obviously, I like the Grand Tours but if I’m realistic, I still have a lot to work on to be able to contend for the Grand Tours.
“I think it’s step-by-step and see how things go in week-long races and see if I enjoy that, that kind of mindset or pressure in those races.”
Kuss, who joined Jumbo in 2018 after starting his career with Rally Cycling in the US, consistently featured in summit finals during the Tour de France and was a regular top-10 stage finisher in the Vuelta last year, finishing 15th and 16th respectively in the two Grand Tours.
He also added a stage victory from the Critérium du Dauphiné to his palmarès in 2020.
On his development as a rider since joining the Dutch WorldTour team, Kuss said: “In a lot of ways, I feel different. I think I’ve obviously learned a lot.
“But through that I’ve gotten more confidence in myself and just the confidence that knowing that I can be there with some of the best riders a lot of the time – that’s something I never really envisioned when I started.
“I’m still figuring out what kind of rider I am. But for me, it’s also exciting because I never had any predisposed idea, at least when I started my career, of what I wanted to do in this sport.
“I’ve definitely matured a lot along the way.”
Kuss hopes to race the Volta a Catalunya as leader, before returning to domestique duties at the Tour and the Vuelta.
On spending the winter in Europe for the first time, Kuss said: “Every year I’m more comfortable living in Europe.
“I spent the winter with my girlfriend and her family, so I still had that family aspect but of course I miss my parents and my friends back home.
“I think they also understand that more and more my life is based in Europe and that’s also a part of being a professional cyclist.”