As Team Jumbo-Visma fights to keep its team leader Primož Roglič in yellow at the Tour this year, teammate Sepp Kuss has been by Roglič’s side up nearly every climb so far. The young American rider started his rookie Tour de France with a clear job of protecting Roglič and shepherding him up the steep French mountainsides. So far, that team has executed perfectly, keeping Roglič out of trouble on the decisive crosswind stages and helping launch him up the crucial climbs, and Kuss has been part of the action through it all.
Hailing from Durango, Colorado, Kuss is no stranger to long, challenging climbs. It’s these types of slopes where Kuss originally made a name for himself, and after a dominating win at the mountainous 2018 Tour of Utah, WorldTour teams came knocking.
Now in his third year with Jumbo-Visma, Kuss has learned even more about climbing fast. We can’t all hammer out an astonishing 6.5 watts per kilo like this cheeseburger-crushing Coloradan, but with a few climbing tips and a nugget of gearing wisdom from Kuss, we might just float up our favorite climbs a little faster.
Climbing Tip 1 - Cadence is Key
Think about your cadence; it's like gears on a car almost. You're going to use your low gears to accelerate. You’re going to use your high gears to maintain your pace. Use your lower gears to settle into your rhythm and accelerate over the top of some sections where it's a bit faster. Then you go faster at a lower cost. It helps the climb or the terrain go by a bit faster when you think about it more technically.
Climbing Tip 2 - Ride the Terrain, Not the Power Numbers
Not every climb is just a steady six percent grade. There's always a bit of undulation. If you just stare at your power, you're going to blow up in the wrong places because you're not using your power effectively. You're not raising it and lowering it when the terrain necessitates it.
Climbing Tip 3 - Error on the Side of Lower Gearing
I always prefer a bit lower gearing, just in case. Better to be a bit under-geared than over-geared, especially in races like in the Vuelta. There, you have really steep climbs or climbs that kind of sneak up on you, and they are often a lot steeper than you anticipate or than they look on paper.
Climbing Tip 4 - Embrace the Experience, Erase the Expectations
It’s better to put down your barriers and have no expectations when climbing. I think that's just a good thing in life, not to have expectations, more or less. That way, you experience a lot more and find yourself in situations that you could never have predicted. For me, it's fun when I'm in a situation that I never expected. It makes it that much more adventurous.
Sepp’s Winning Gear Choices
I generally don’t go smaller than a 36-tooth DURA-ACE inner chainring because, with smaller rings, you don't have the torque around the chainring. On our race bikes, the majority of the time, we have the 11-30-tooth cassette on there. It’s a good range and the jumps between gears aren’t too massive, so it’s pretty smooth all the way through.
Whether it's a new mountain to climb or a unique opportunity, go with the flow, and use body, brain, and some smart gearing spec to take your climbing game to the next level like Kuss.