Community celebrates Sepp Kuss’ Tour de France triumph in Durango, Colorado


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At the Kuss family home in Durango, Colorado, Dolph and Sabina Kuss screamed on TV last Sunday, watching their son, Sepp, navigate the meanders of his bike as he descended the Col de Beixalis on the stage 15th of the Tour de La France, thousands of kilometers in Andorra.

Behind Kuss, Alejandro Valverde gave the chase, hoping to challenge the American for the stage victory.

“Come on Seppy, take a risk,” shouted Dolph, two-time Olympic cross-country ski coach for Team USA in 1964 and 1972. “I was cheering him on on that downhill so he didn’t have to fight Valverde. for the last few seconds before the finish. Sepp, sure I know he’s not devoid of downhill skills. When they were showing the gaps – 18, 20, up to 15, back to 16 – oh man , each of those second losses felt like sucking the wind out of you, and each win brought you to life.

Sabina, herself a cyclist who has conquered the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic from Durango to Silverton on numerous occasions, sometimes with her son in his cycling debut, said she could watch him fearlessly as he reached heights. speeds as high as 50 mph downhill for the first time in its life.

“Thank goodness there was no rain,” said Sabina Kuss VeloNews. “We know Sepp is a good descender, so this was the first time I could relax, and I took every curve with him.”

Under the proud gaze of Dolph and Sabina, Sepp stood up to Valverde and crossed the finish line to claim the biggest victory of his professional cycling career. In doing so, he became the first American in a decade to win a stage in the Tour de France.

Returning to Durango, Colorado, where Sepp grew up, the victory made waves in the community. Those who knew him best had just watched him do what he had done. several times on a mountain bike throughout his childhood. And in the days after the victory, these friends shared how Kuss’s victory reverberated throughout the mountain town of southwest Colorado, which has already produced so many great cyclists.

“In 2017, while racing nationally for Rally Cycling, Sepp, Howard Grotts and I rode the South Boundary Trail from Angel Fire to Taos, New Mexico,” said Payson McElveen, professional bicycle racer. mountain and gravel, from Durango.

“It was a super long and fairly technical descent at the end. I don’t think Sepp has been mountain biking for nine months or anything crazy because he focused on the road. But he just jumps on his mountain bike, and he rocks, and he even wore pedals and road shoes. Howie and I had just finished a full season of mountain biking and Sepp had absolutely not lost a beat.

“So when he fell in that downhill on the Tour, I had a feeling he was going to absolutely tear it up. It was easy to believe in his huge skill bank at this point,” added McElveen.

Dreams of mountain biking success fill many Durango children from an early age. From his debut with coach Chad Cheeney at Durango Devo, Kuss was known for his small build, sharp elbows, strong climbing ability, and the whips he tried to throw even the smallest features on any path.

“Like everyone else, he loved mountain biking. But he would still ride on the road, too, ”Cheeney said. “Sepp always had these really cool and fun custom road bikes, drummers he bought on eBay or found in the Durango Cyclery recycling section. He found these ultra-light frames and put original parts in them. We were going for walks and his bike squeaked and came loose. He was that bicycle shoemaker.

In his final year of high school, Kuss was on USA Cycling’s list for the UCI Mountain World Championships, and he was a member of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Devo Sweet Elite team formed in Durango. It was made up of stars under 23 such as Kaylee Blevins, Lauren Catlin, Tad Elliott, Grotts, McElveen and Sarah Sturm as well as high school chippers in Kuss and Stephan Davoust, among others.

While none of these riders would ever have predicted the success Kuss would have in road cycling, he left a few clues along the way.

“We were at a race in Colorado Springs for Sweet Elite, and Sepp couldn’t do it because he was in Europe for a world cup,” said Cheeney. “We all watched the live timing for this. He started out as 130th, and it was a great climbing race. He moved up to the 50th or something like that. We all had tingles, and we looked at each other like, “Holy cow, Sepp can really, really really climb.” We all knew he was fast before, but it was that world class moment. Before, you just thought of Sepp as a cool, sweet guy. You never thought of him as a world killer.

McElveen recalled training with Grotts, the 2016 mountain bike Olympian, and Kuss during those days. Afterwards, they would go home before meeting for another round. When asked how he spent his free time, Kuss would surprise them with his answer.

“He was like, ‘I came back and watched the full four hour replay of the 17th stage of the 2003 Giro d’Italia,” said McElveen. “We were like, ‘Wow, this is really specific. He pledged to devote a tremendous amount of time to watching those really long road races of ten years ago. You could see that there was this burgeoning interest that he had in the highest level of sport, the more traditional version of the sport. In view of his results in mountain biking, I would never have thought that we would see him in the Tour de France. But from an interest perspective, it makes sense that he’s there. He seemed so inspired by those massive alpine stages of the grand tours.

Elliott was the rider Kuss admired the most. He was a two-time National Under-23 Mountain Bike Champion and an elite Nordic skier who embarked on a professional career on skinny skis. Dolph Kuss had coached Elliott’s father, Mike, in the Olympics, and the two remained extremely close their entire lives, leading backcountry expeditions to the San Juan Mountains throughout his childhood. Kuss.

Elliott envisioned Kuss embarking on a career in mountain biking or even hockey, but not the Tour de France. Yet due to the cycling culture established in Durango since the 1990 World Mountain Bike Championships, when world champions such as Juli Furtado, Greg Herbold, Ruthie Matthes, Ned Overend and John Tomac took up residence in the mountain town in southwest Colorado, Elliott said it wasn’t. a shock to see Kuss win on Sunday as he sipped coffee on his couch and watched him take a break.

“Sepp was always a normal Durango kid, running around like a little menace who loved to ride a bike, and you always knew he was very, very talented,” Elliott said. “There’s never been that moment where I show where I thought he would be one of the best in the world and on TV, but it’s just no surprise to see him win, and we don’t Are never surprised here in Durango to see someone we grew up with or our neighbors have such incredible results.

“If you watched another American win a stage of the Tour de France, you would be excited and feel the pride of the country. But when you see Sepp winning a Tour de France stage, you get the same feelings, but it feels natural. Stuff like that when it’s happening in our community, it’s really fun, but it doesn’t feel like another world, and it’s pretty cool.

As Kuss caught his breath after arriving on Sunday in his new adopted country Andorra, his mind turned to Durango, those who had helped him along the way and how his friends who pursued them national mountain biking championships on the same day.

“There is always a story behind every successful runner,” he said. “The mentors and the people who helped them get there. It’s something I’ll always be grateful for, and everyone’s support in Durango means so much a day like today.

At the US Mountain Bike Championships in Winter Park, Cheeney gathered the Durango Devo riders together and they hosted a Tour replay night before at the team’s house that night. Cheeney looked across the room, perhaps making eye contact with the next WorldTour big pro in the making, and told them the legend of Kuss.

“They thought it was so amazing that it wasn’t over 10 years ago that he was in their shoes,” Cheeney said. “It’s kinda special when you can show these kids, hey, he didn’t always win national mountain bike championships when he was their age. They can relate to a normal guy who continued to work hard.

In Park City, Utah, other WorldTour pro from Durango, Quinn Simmons, looked up at Kuss with pride and felt inspired.

“Seeing this as an American is really special,” said Simmons. “This victory is the biggest achievement for an American on a bike in the past 10 years, across all disciplines. Whether Sepp does it as a boy from Durango makes him even more special. It will serve as a big motivator. for us American pros to step up our game. “

Above all his accomplishments, Kuss had continued to make Durango proud of his stable and laid back demeanor, compassionate demeanor, and kindness that made everyone in his hometown feel like his friend and like he was his friend. was there to encourage him personally. on and kiss with a Sunday hug, even from over 5,000 miles away.

“You can take the kid out of Durango, but you can’t get the Durango out of the kid,” Sturm said. “Sepp has always had such a unique attitude and is so much like (Grotts) in the way they purely enjoy the action of riding a bike. It’s so cool to see someone who is such a good person find such success and maintain who they are through it all. That’s why people are so excited for him.

“For us, Sepp is still the same goofy kid. Now he’s really, really fast.

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