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Vuelta champ Sepp Kuss ruled out of Tour de France because of COVID-19

BRUSSELS (AP) — Spanish Vuelta champion Sepp Kuss has not sufficiently recovered from a COVID-19 infection and won't take part in the Tour de France, his team said on Tuesday.

The American was set to compete in a support role for Team Visma-Lease a Bike leader Jonas Vingegaard but fell ill during the Criterium Du Dauphine warmup race and is not fit enough.

He has been replaced in the eight-man squad by Bart Lemmen.

The absence of Kuss is a big setback for Vingegaard. The American, who won a Tour stage in 2021, is excellent in the mountains and would have been a key helper for the two-time reigning champion.

“This is, of course, very hard for Sepp in the first place. His contribution is always very important in the team, but then of course he has to be completely fit," sporting director Merijn Zeeman said. “Unfortunately, we had to conclude together that this is insufficient.”

Lemmen joined Team Visma-Lease a Bike in January, one year into his pro career.

The Tour de France starts on Saturday from the Italian city of Florence.

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/sports

The Associated Press