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Kuss on verge of victory at Spanish Vuelta. He’ll be 1st American man to win Grand Tour in a decade

GUADARRAMA, Spain (AP) — Sepp Kuss is set to become the first American man to win one of cycling’s Grand Tours in a decade after he protected his lead of the Spanish Vuelta on the last competitive day of racing Saturday.

Kuss kept his 17-second lead over Jumbo-Visma teammate Jonas Vingegaard over the 20th and penultimate stage.

Kuss will wear the red leader’s jersey heading into Sunday’s final stage, when cycling custom dictates that title rivals respect the leader’s advantage in the largely ceremonial arrival to Madrid.

The last American man to win one of cycling’s three-week races, which in addition to the Vuelta and Tour includes the Giro d’Italia, was 2013 Vuelta winner Chris Horner.

Wout Poels won Saturday’s 208-kilometer (129-mile) ride from Manzanares El Real to Guadarrama.

Kuss crossed the finish line flanked by Vingegaard and fellow teammate Primoz Roglic, with the three exchanging hand shakes and patting one another on the back as they rode over the final meters.

Jumbo-Visma arrived at the race that started last month as the team to beat.

Not only is the Dutch team set to monopolize the podium in Madrid with Kuss, Vingegaard and Roglic on target to finish 1-2-3, Jumbo-Visma is also on the cusp of sweeping all three Grand Tours this year after Roglic won the Giro d’Italia in May and Vingegaard repeated as the Tour champion in July.

The nearest challenger to the trio was Spaniard Juan Ayuso, the UAE Team Emirates leader, who was more than two minutes behind Roglic in third overall.

Kuss, a 29-year-old from Durango, Colorado, started cycling as a way to train all year for his passion of cross-country skiing. But he eventually changed the skis for wheels and has for several seasons featured as one of the top support riders for Jumbo-Visma. He now lives in Andorra in the Pyrenees Mountains nestled between Spain and France.

He arrived at this Vuelta tapped to once again help Vingegaard and Roglic — who won three straight Vuelta editions before crashing out last year — in the mountains and position one of them to shoot for the title.

Instead, Kuss took the lead on the eighth stage and did not relinquish it, holding his own on massive climbs up the Col du Tourmalet in France and the Alto de l’Angliru in northern Spain. And he clung to his dwindling advantage when Vingegaard and Roglic took their shot at overtaking him with stage wins this week.

The two stars did, however, finally change strategy and rode for Kuss over the 18th stage which was the last demanding mountain ride of the race. Vingegaard said after that stage that it was “sure nice to be able to pay Sepp back. He has done so much for me and Primoz.”


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