There will be no drama in what would have been the final year of Sepp Kuss’ cycling contract with Team Jumbo-Visma.
The 26-year-old from Durango announced Friday he had signed a three-year extension with the Netherlands-based team to remain in yellow and black through the end of the 2024 season. After a standout performance at last year’s Tour de France in his debut at the sport’s biggest event, Kuss attracted suitors from across the International Cycling Union World Tour landscape. But the chance to stay with the team that first took a chance on him early in his road cycling career while still earning a considerable pay raise was all Kuss had hoped to gain.
“There were offers elsewhere, and of course we considered it, but for me, my main goal was to stay with Jumbo-Visma. It’s the best environment for me,” Kuss said in a phone interview with The Durango Herald. “I get along really with the riders, the directors, the staff, and it was a logical decision to stay.
“I always wanted to stay. It’s a team I really feel comfortable in, so there’s no reason for me to change that, especially at the rate I am learning things and developing. I could see that continuing and getting better the longer I stay with the team. We have that level of trust with each other and understanding, which I think is really important.”
This is the third contract Kuss has signed with Jumbo-Visma. He first signed away from continental team Rally Cycling after the 2017 season when he was still raltively new to road cycling after years as a mountain biker. Kuss signed a two-year extension with the team at the conclusion of the 2019 season.
“To have a three-year extension now is really nice,” Kuss said. “You have a bit of security and know you’re part of the longer-term plans for the team. As the years go on, I can have more opportunities, and I think that will be really motivating.”
With a stage win at the 2019 Spanish Vuelta and an impressive debut at the 2020 Tour de France, Kuss set into the 2021 season with the chance for more leadership opportunities, including at this year’s Vuelta. The team has helped him gradually ease into leadership roles after years as a support rider, primarily for Primož Roglic. Kuss has shined in that role as one of the best climbers in the world, and he has enjoyed not having the pressure of being thrust into leadership duties early in his career.
Team Jumbo-Visma sports director Merijn Zeeman cited Kuss’ 2018 win at the Tour of Utah as well as his stage victories at the Vuelta and at last year’s Critérium du Dauphiné as Kuss’ great accomplishments during his first two contracts with the team.
“Sepp is one of the best climbers in the peloton,” Zeeman said in a team news release. “He has grown into a rider who takes his own chances, but he is also super important in supporting the leaders. He is increasingly becoming a leader himself, and we will guide him in discovering his limits in the upcoming years.”
Kuss’ extension helps ensure Jumbo-Visma further success after it was crowned the best team in 2020. Roglic is under contract through 2023, and Belgian star Wout van Aert is also signed through 2024.
“It’s really fun being on a team with two of the best riders in the world,” Kuss said. “I learn a lot from them, and we get along really well. I think those two bring the whole team up another level, and it’s nice to be part of that environment. When you show up to different races and everybody is looking toward you as the team to beat, there is a level of responsibility but it also empowers you in a way. Being part of a really strong group that has riders who can win on any day if that’s what you need to do, it’s a lot of fun.”
Kuss will again ride at this year’s Tour de France and will get co-leadership duties at the Vuelta. He also is expected to be picked by USA Cycling for the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
But next for Kuss is the Volta a Catalunya from March 22-28. He will have co-leadership duties on the team that also will include Steven Kruijswijk and George Bennett.
“Stevie and George were in good shape at Paris-Nice, and I think it’s a pretty open race,” Kuss said. “It will be a bit easier to see how it plays out between the three of us with no pressure of having one big leader. It opens with a time trial and then goes into tough mountain stages, so we will see where we’re at pretty early on.”