Sepp Kuss is out of the Tour de France

In another obstacle for Visma-Lease a Bike, the popular super-domestique hasn't been able to recover fully from a recent COVID infection.

The common sight of Kuss leading Vingegaard (and Pogačar) up a climb.

Iain Treloar
by Iain Treloar 25.06.2024 Photography by
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Days before the Tour de France Grand Depart in Florence, Visma-Lease a Bike has announced that Sepp Kuss is out of the Tour squad due to illness. After catching Covid-19 at the Critérium du Dauphiné, Kuss withdrew on the penultimate stage with mild symptoms, but has nonetheless failed to recover sufficiently in the weeks since. According to a team press release, Kuss’s condition looked promising initially but “in recent days that upward trend stagnated.” 

Kuss’s withdrawal leaves an injury and illness-wracked Visma-Lease a Bike squad further under pressure. Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard’s form is uncertain after a terrible crash at Itzulia Basque Country; super-domestique Wout van Aert is also on his way back from serious injury. Meanwhile, Steven Kruijswijk and Dylan van Baarle – who were both slated for the Tour de France squad – are out after suffering fractures in a major crash at Critérium du Dauphiné. But of the Visma roster, it’s Kuss that has been perhaps the most instrumental aid for Vingegaard’s success, with the Colorado climber riding to Grand Tour glory of his own at last year’s Vuelta a España. 

Kuss’s win at the 2023 Vuelta a España – although not without its inter-team tension – completed a triptych of Grand Tour wins for the team then-known as Jumbo-Visma. From left to right: sports director Merijn Zeeman, Jonas Vingegaard, Sepp Kuss, Primož Roglič, and general manager Richard Plugge.

“This is of course very hard for Sepp in the first place,” Visma-Lease a Bike sports director Merijn Zeeman said. “His contribution is always very important in the team, but then of course he has to be completely fit. Unfortunately, we had to conclude together today that this is insufficiently the case, after Covid. He now needs to recover properly and will therefore not start.” 

The Dutch superteam will replace Kuss with Bart Lemmen, a first-year WorldTour rider and Grand Tour debutant. Lemmen, 28, is a former Air Force platoon commander who didn’t begin racing seriously until 2021, joining Human Powered Health in 2023 and signing late in the 2024 transfer window for Visma-Lease a Bike. In his debut WorldTour season, he has finished second at the Tour of Norway and fifth at the Tour Down Under – solid results, although a far cry from the glamour and prestige of the Tour de France. 

Lemmen and some Visma-Lease a Bike colleagues at the weekend’s Dutch National Championships.

In an April interview with Escape Collective, Lemmen seemed to suggest that he was sitting outside the team’s plans for a 2024 Grand Tour spot. “On this team only 15-16 riders are on that list … and I need to fight for my place there,” he said. “I would still consider myself a fully fledged WorldTour rider [if] I never got to do a Grand Tour, but a Grand Tour is what makes a rider’s dream… it would be a dream come true if I get to line up for three weeks in France, Italy, or Spain,” he said at the time. 

Lemmen’s dream coming true is a silver lining for Visma-Lease a Bike, having already lost a number of key lieutenants for its 2024 Tour campaign. But it also concretely demonstrates that Visma has fewer fit options than it would prefer to call on for a substitute. Kuss’s omission from the team’s lineup also removes one of Visma’s most humanising riders, and puts the burden more on his compatriot Matteo Jorgensen to carry the hopes of the US audience – and perhaps serve as a plan B should Vingegaard’s defence falter.

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