Sepp Kuss had 'to go as deep as possible' to take maiden Tour de France victory

The American continues Jumbo-Visma's stage-hunting success

Sepp Kuss
(Image credit: Getty)

Sepp Kuss' victory margin on stage 15 of the Tour de France was a comfortable 23 seconds - but the American admitted that he felt Alejandro Valverde could have breached across to him on the final descent.

Kuss attacked on the day's final ascent in Andorra, the Col de Beixalis, and summited the tough climb with a margin of 30 seconds to Valverde in second.

He maintained his lead as he descended into the Principality's capital, Andorra la Valle, but in chasing a maiden Tour triumph he attacked the descent with speed and risk, nervous about Valverde behind.

It meant that the final 60 minutes of racing was as intense an hour's racing as he's ever done.

"On the climb I heard the gaps were growing and I went pretty deep to try and get as big a gap as I could to kill some of the morale of the guys chasing behind," the 26-year-old said afterwards.

"I knew in the final kilometre that Valverde was getting closer, but I was confident on the descent.

"But then the last three kilometres were a lot harder than I thought with so much headwind. 

"I had to tell myself to go as deep as possible so that he wouldn't come back to me."

Jumbo-Visma's Tour de France started off badly with team leader Primož Roglič crashing on stage three and abandoning five stages later.

But the Dutch team have responded well, Wout van Aert winning stage 11, Kuss following suit on Sunday, and their young GC rider Jonas Vingegaard a surprise package in third overall.

Vingegaard's lofty position meant that it was an interesting detail to see Kuss, Van Aert and Steven Kruijswijk in the day's breakaway, leaving Vingegaard with only Mike Teunissen for help.

"Actually, the breakaway just happened naturally with us being on the front," Kuss said. "With only five guys you have to be a bit more creative.

"Once all three of us were in there, we could save energy and discuss amongst ourselves who would drop back to support Jonas.

"The team tactics were maybe not traditional, but in the end we managed a stage win.

"We want to go for stages and today I really wanted to finish the job off. From here I'll be supporting Jonas all the way and it's really good to see him riding up there."

Kuss won a stage of the Vuelta a España two years, and despite being recognised as one of the peloton's strongest climbers, his win in Andorra was only his third in Europe, a stage victory at 2020's Critérium du Dauphiné the other.

"It means a lot, I still can't believe it," he said. "It's really incredible.

"I have suffered a lot in this Tour and I don't feel like I have done [my best], I haven't had the spice in my legs. 

"I was fully motivated today and finally I had really good legs again. I am so happy."

It was made all the better by spotting his girlfriend on the final climb. "She sent me a [location] pin before the stage of where she was so I thought I had to do something before then to take the time to see them.

"It was really special to have them supporting me on a day like this."