National Team Riders Excel at Amgen Tour of California


Amgen Tour of California Mount Baldy

USA Cycling ended the Amgen Tour of California with national team riders wear every jersey in the race except yellow.

USA Cycling ended the Amgen Tour of California on Saturday the same way the team started, with a show of grit and determination that saw national team riders wear every jersey in the race except yellow, and Alex Hoehn take home the final Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous jersey after making the breakaway for the second consecutive day and for the third time since the race started seven days ago in Sacramento.

“The guys rode way over the top and the staff was incredible this week, and that’s why we brought them,” said team director Mike Sayers. “The whole organization was awesome, and the riders contributed all week. There is literally no way we could be more satisfied or excited. I think everybody should be proud of the job these guys did, and I think it sets a precedent for national teams to come.”

Travis McCabe and Tyler Stites started the fireworks on stage 1 in Sacramento, where Stites made the day’s breakaway, soaking up time bonuses along the way and earning the white jersey of the race’s best young rider for stage 2. McCabe used his blistering sprint to finish second on the stage to three-time world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), earning the right to wear the green sprinters jersey for stage 2.

“We all stepped up,” McCabe said of the USA Cycling team in California. “I had that leadership role, but the young guys did their jobs and excelled at them too. We had a guy in the break everyday, and Alex was up there a couple of days. He just got the most courageous jersey for the entire race, which is fantastic. We came out to represent USA Cycling, and, yeah, it was special. It was great.”

The team was only getting started, however. The red-white-and-blue jerseys were active once again during the stage 2 high altitude race to South Lake Tahoe, and Hoehn went on the attack during stage 3, joining a two man breakaway with eventual stage winner Remi Cavagna (Deceuninbck-QuickStep) and earning the race’s polka dot King of the Mountains jersey for the following day.

On stage 4, Michael Hernandez made the day’s breakaway and gobbled up as many KOM points as possible to protect Hoehn’s KOM lead. Hernandez earned the race’s Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous jersey for his efforts and wore that blue jersey for stage 5.

“It was a good week for the team,” Hernandez said. “It was brutal. It was the longest week I’ve ever done in hours and miles. I’m happy to have it over with and happy to get through it, too. The competition was next level for me. Just the atmosphere of Tour of California was insane. It was so cool.”

Hoehn was on the attack again during stage 6, and he followed it up with another attack on stage 7 that netted the final blue jersey of the race, signifying him as the most courageous rider of the week.

“It’s been incredible,” Hoehn said. “I didn’t expect any of this. I came into the race just wanting to finish, to be honest, and anything on top of that would just be a bonus. And it’s been more than a bonus. It’s been absolutely phenomenal, for me and for my whole team. We’ve been able to do some pretty incredible stuff here. I’m just super proud to be a part of it. We definitely gave it our all out there.”

The team’s performance didn’t come as a surprise to assistant director Mike Creed, who said he knew his riders were capable of delivering.

“But the dynamic at the Tour of California is always tricky,” Creed said. “Sometimes it’s a lot of sprinters’ teams, so it’s super controlled. Sometimes it’s like now, where it’s all GC, so it’s not so controlled. You kind of have your hopes, but you’re also trying to tell the guys to differentiate between realistic goals and ambitious hopes. We made realistic goals, and I think we actually got our hopes.”

The stated goals for the team this week in California were to provide opportunity for the riders and let them shine. Both goals were achieved beyond expectations.

“It was a good experience for all these young guys to see what the World Tour is like, how different that speed is, and hopefully motivate them to excel at get to that level one day,” McCabe said.

Hoehn credited the team’s success to talent and preparation.

“We knew what we were getting into coming into here,” Hoehn said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and we knew we wanted to be a part of this race. A lot of us are very good riders, and we can compete with some of the best riders in the world. There’s a lot of confidence in our team, so we do it one day and it’s a kind of ripple down effect for everyone else on our team, like ‘Oh, if he can do it, maybe I can do it, and then I can do it, and then I can do it.’ It’s just a great for morale for the team as a whole.”

McCabe, the most senior on the team at 30, was finally able to experience racing in the USA Cycling team kit after wearing several national champion’s jerseys. Representing the USA amongst an international field provided a “pretty special week” for the Arizona rider.

“It’s been a fantastic week,” he said, “and I’ll always cherish these moments.”

Hernandez said his experience in California could only be equalled by competing in the U23 Tour of Flanders in Belgium.

“I did that last year with the national team as well,” he said. “So I’ve had a lot of opportunities given to me from USA Cycling.”

Throughout the 7 day race, National Team riders were in almost every major break, totaling over 22 and a half hours in the breakaway, more than 5 hours longer than any other team.

Photo by Christy Nicholson / EchelonDesignTeam.com