Meet Sepp Kuss
Invariably ebullient and adorned with a perpetual, yet impish smile, 22-year-old Sepp Kuss’ demeanor is as uplifting as his renowned climbing ability. The mountain-biker-turned-road-racer from Durango, Colo., is one of America’s rising stars. With a stage win at the 2016 Tour de Beauce under his belt, Sepp is ready to build on this success in 2017. We sat down with the Rally Cycling sophomore at the team’s recent presentation gala in Torrance, CA.
You are one of the younger members of the team. What’s it like to be with Rally?
It’s great. It’s a low key, lighthearted atmosphere, but everyone behaves like professionals so there’s tons of experience to gather from the older riders on the team and the guys that have seen a variety of races and stuff. So, I’d say the combination of just the experience and good people to race and hang around with is pretty awesome.
When and how did you start riding?
I started in a local club in my hometown of Durango, Colo., in a club called Durango Devo. At the time it was just about enjoying the bike, and I think I’ve carried that philosophy through from then until now. So I was previously mountain bike racing until about midway through 2015 and then I switched to road, dabbling a bit in 2015 and then I did a full season in 2016 and signed with Rally in May 2016.
How long have you been riding SRAM components?
I’ve been riding SRAM components my whole cycling career. On the road I think I was on another brand for maybe half a year, but on the mountain bike I was always on SRAM. I started out on Grip Shift and all that and then XX on the mountain bike and SRAM on the road bike. It’s definitely cutting edge stuff, you know they are always one step ahead of the game so to speak, so it’s always cool to be on the next coolest stuff. Like when 11-speed came around it was nice to be ahead of that curve, same with the eTap technology. It’s pretty fun being on SRAM.
Do you cross chain much?
How does RED work for you in those gear combinations?
I appreciate a quiet bike so when you are in big-big and it’s not making any noise you feel like you can put the power down and it’s not grinding away at anything. I think a lot of racers can appreciate that. Keep it in the big ring as long as possible! [laughs] Whether that’s for the ego or just trying to go fast! [laughs]
What are your thoughts on the ergonomics of the hoods and shifters?
I really like it. It’s really easy to go from a standing position where you are rocking the bike to a seated position where you are maybe gripping it more; it’s just easy to have a relaxed handle on the shifters. When you are descending in the drops… it’s all pretty seamless.
Do you utilize the lever ReachAdjust feature?
I do, yeah. That’s pretty easy to use and can fit any size hands.
Can you tell us something that no one knows about you such as a favorite hobby?
Let’s see, that’s a tough one. It's like the first day of school! I speak German pretty well, so I try to use that whenever I can when traveling abroad. I also like to get out on my mountain bike as much as possible. It switches things up a bit from road racing and training.
Besides your riding gear, is there something you always take with you when you travel to races?
A good book is always helpful, especially if you are in a foreign country and you need to channel out whatever else is going on. Foreign TV I can’t particularly understand, so it’s always nice to have backup entertainment. Or some good snacks from home. You don’t want to be eating European energy bars where you are wondering, ‘What’s in this thing?’
Who’s your favorite rider of all time?
Of all time? Man, I’d have to say probably guys like Ned Overend, a mountain biker, and Todd Wells I always looked up to as a mountain biker growing up as a kid, but I’d say they are all mountain bikers. They are just good dudes and when I was growing up they always took the time to come out on local rides and give advice. I’m pretty new to road cycling so I don’t have those same role models as other road riders might have, but I’d say those guys.
What three words best describe you?
Laidback, optimistic, and um a third one, I’d say competitive. If laidback and competitive… I guess there’s some contrast in there!
Who inspires you?
I’d say my parents. My dad, he fought in the Korean conflict, he was an Olympic coach and skier, so he came from a time a long time ago when skiing was still an amateur sport, it wasn’t really professionalized at the time. You know, it was just about doing a sport because you loved it and you want to give it your best effort so I think that inspires me a lot today. Cycling is very professionalized and commercialized and you do it to make a living, but I think if you just do those and carry those hardworking ideas, just no excuses.
If you were not a pro rider, what would you do?
Let’s see, I’ll graduate this May with an advertising degree. I did an internship with Warren Miller entertainment this last fall so probably something in the sports industry or health industry like Rally. I think that would be a motivating field to go into.
Where is your favorite place to ride?
It’s hard to beat Durango, Colorado. I always have a soft spot for riding on the Colorado trail up there. Just go for a big ride, grab a CamelBak and whatever provisions you need to get you through the day and ride. You ride the trail all day and only see two people. I think that’s pretty special just being out on your own enjoying the trail in solitary.
What is your favorite race on the calendar?
I really like the Tour of the Gila. It’s fun. It’s a good one. It’s a well-balanced route and it’s at altitude, which is something I enjoy. It’s a tough race, so I really like that one.
What was the best moment of your 2016 season?
I’d say winning a stage at Tour de Beauce. It was my first year on a new team and I wasn’t too nervous, but you know it was good to start off on a good foot and be comfortable with all of my teammates. It was really cool to be a part of a really professional team like Rally, so I was really excited about that.
What are your goals for 2017? Are there specific races you are targeting?
Yeah! We’ll do a block of racing in Europe early on in February so I’d really like to do well there. I don’t have any expectations for it but to continue to gain experience. And then at the end of spring, the Tour of California would be a big goal for me, the climbing stages there. And just trying to be consistent throughout the year and help out wherever I can and look for opportunities.
What is your favorite food and drink?
Let’s see, favorite food is… anything Mexican is fine by me. Drink… IPA usually hits the spot!
All photos courtesy of Sam Wiebe/Rally Cycling.