Miguel Indurain says Sepp Kuss can win Vuelta a España if he can handle the pressure

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VALLADOLID, Spain (Velo) — The biggest cheers Tuesday at the Vuelta a España weren’t for Sepp Kuss or Remco Evenepoel.

The crowd erupted when Miguel Indurain stepped onto the final podium to wave to the crowd. The five-time Tour de France winner remains a national hero across the Iberian peninsula.

Indurain took a moment to congratulate Sepp Kuss after the podium protocol, and the pair had a short exchange:

“I didn’t have the legs of Miguel Indurain,” Kuss said, with Indurain countering, “Climbing, yes.”

Velo asked Indurain if he thinks Kuss can win this Vuelta, and he said a lot depends on if Kuss can handle being in the spotlight that comes with handling the race leader’s jersey of a grand tour.

“Physically, he’s very strong. We have to see how he’s built mentality,” Indurain told Velo. “He likes to be more calm, to work only in the hard moments, but the truth is he’s going well, always there in the right moments, he’s attentive, he’s strong. So we’ll see if he maintains that feeling until the end.”

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Indurain won five yellow jerseys and two editions of the Giro d’Italia, but never won the Vuelta. The race never quite fit into his calendar, and he later abandoned in his final Vuelta in 1996.

Indurain said Kuss is clearly strong enough to handle the grueling climbs that are facing the peloton in the Pyrénées and across the Cantabrian mountains, but said he doesn’t know if Kuss will like being the center attention for the next two weeks.

“You have to be mentally tough every day, with interviews, with the podium, some like it, others don’t,” Indurain said. “Physically he’s strong, but to be a leader, you have to be mentality very strong as well.”

Indurain: ‘It depends on his mentality’

Miguel Indurain
Indurain, right, shakes hands with Kuss after Tuesday’s stage. (Photo: Gregor Brown/FloBikes)

Kuss is counting on support from Jumbo-Visma and Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard said he will ride to support Kuss to win the Vuelta.

“He has a very strong team behind him that can support him,” Indurain said.

“It depends on his mentality, and if he was the mental fortitude to fight every day in every stage to be at the top.

“For him this red jersey defense is a prize,” Indurain said. “He’s always working for the other leaders, so for him to be in the leader’s jersey himself is something special.

“Now he’s No. 1 on the team. He defended himself well in the time trial, and everyone knows that’s not his speciality, but he’s handling himself very well.”

Kuss echoed Indurain’s sentiment about team support, and said he’s up to the task of fighting for the lead as long as possible.

“The most important thing is that we have two really strong riders with Primož and Jonas, and I don’t feel any pressure on my shoulders,” Kuss said. “I just feel a lot positivity from the team, and they’re happy to see me in this moment. That’s what’s most important.”

Indurain, 59, is impressed with one more aspect of Kuss, and that’s the American’s ever improving Spanish.

Kuss is now fluent in Spanish, and gives post-stage press conferences in Spanish, and he’s quickly becoming a media darling of the local media.

“He speaks very good Spanish,” Indurain said. “He’s almost one more Spanish rider now.”

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