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Sepp Kuss wins Vuelta, first American in a decade to win a Grand Tour race

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MADRID — A decade later, the United States once again has a Grand Tour winner.

Sepp Kuss won the Spanish Vuelta on Sunday to become the first American to win one of cycling’s biggest races since Chris Horner won the Vuelta in 2013. Other Grand Tour events are the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.

Kuss had effectively secured victory ahead of Sunday’s largely ceremonial stage, when his rivals in the Spanish capital respected his lead and launched no attacks as is cycling tradition.

“It’s amazing. I think today was the stage where I suffered the most in the whole race, now I’m just happy that it’s over,” said Kuss. “It changes the life for sure. I think I’ll look back on this experience with lots of fun memories. I’m still figuring it out, I think it’ll take a while. Now a big party. Family and friends are here, and it’s going to be really special.

It was a surprising victory for Kuss, who entered the race in a supporting role to his Jumbo-Visma teammates Jonas Vingegaard – the two-time Tour de France winner – and three-time Vuelta winner Primoz Roglic.

Vingegaard and Roglic finished second and third overall, respectively, capping a dominant performance and a historic hat-trick for Jumbo-Visma, which swept all three Grand Tour events this year. Roglic won the Giro d’Italia in May and Vingegaard repeated as Tour de France champion in July.

Kuss crossed the finish line with his teammates, all of whom wore special jerseys in honor of the team’s treble.

American Sepp Kuss of Jumbo-Visma, right, celebrates after winning the Vuelta in Madrid, Spain, on Sunday.Manu Fernández / AP

Alpecin-Deceuninck rider Kaden Groves won the final sprint to win the final stage.

Kuss took the lead in the eighth stage and never relinquished it despite pressure from his teammates on several occasions. The American held his own on the tough climbs of Col du Tourmalet in France and Alto de l’Angliru in northern Spain, finishing the three-week race 17 seconds ahead.

The 29-year-old from Durango, Colorado, took up cycling as a year-round workout for his passion of cross-country skiing. But he eventually replaced skis with wheels and established himself for several seasons as one of Jumbo-Visma’s best support riders. He now lives in Andorra with his wife in the Pyrenees, nestled between Spain and France.

The final stage started at the Madrid Hippodrome and ended with laps around some of the Spanish capital’s iconic landmarks.

Kuss rested among the peloton and was celebrated by his rivals and supporters who lined the streets of Madrid.

Last year’s champion, Soudal Quick-Step’s Remco Evenepoel, finished king of the mountains and became the first Belgian to win the Vuelta’s most combative prize. Groves became the first Australian to win the points classification, while Spaniard Juan Ayuso, 21, was the best young rider.

Organizers announced on Sunday that the 2024 edition of the Vuelta would begin in Portugal, with the cities of Lisbon, Oeiras and Cascais hosting the official start of the race.

Lisbon was the first foreign city to host a Vuelta start in 1997.

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