Alex Howes Interview: Impressing in Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Alex Howes Interview: Impressing in Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold

by Ed Hood at 5:34 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Amstel Gold Race
 
Garmin Barracuda neo-pro making impressive debut

Alex HowesOne of the surprises of the second half of the Classics season has been the performances of Garmin’s neo-pro 24 year-old Alex Howes, from Golden, Colorado.

Howes exploded on to the scene with a top six finish behind Europcar’s ‘Tommy’ Voeckler in a miserable Brabantse Pijl.

And to prove it was no fluke, just days later he was one of the animators in Sunday's Amstel Gold Race; riding hard in the breakaway for some 215 kilometres, impressing on the climbs near the finish and still finding enough left to hang on for 30th place.

Howes has been under Jonathan Vaughters’ wing in his various development squads since 2007 – taking a year out to ride for top French amateur club, VC La Pomme, Marseille during season 2008.

His career path is one of steady progress. Howes’ first result of note was third in the US debutants cyclo-cross championship in 2004. He was also second in the novice’s road race the same year – beaten by a certain Tejay Van Garderen.

In 2005 he second in the US junior cyclo-cross championship and for season 2007 signed with Vaughters.

By 2009 he’d graduated to US U23 road race champion, taken a stage in the Tour of Utah and finished fourth overall behind Francisco Mancebo.

A year later he was runner-up in the U23 road race championships behind Ben King and was 20th overall in Canada’s tough Tour de Beauce.

Last year the-then Chipotle Sugar Labs rider showed strongly in stage races; with fourth overall placings in the Tours of the Gila in the US and Beauce – plus 13th overall finish in Tour of Langkawi.

This season is his first with the ProTeam Garmin Barracuda squad, and he’s shown that he has considerable potential. He spoke to VeloNation yesterday about his season thus far and his strong showings.

VeloNation: Brabantse Pijl was a breakthrough for you - why that race and why now?

Alex Howes: Brabantse went well for me for a number of reasons.

It's a style of racing that suits me very well, I tend to ride well in the wet, Garmin-Barracuda gave me a good race program to bring me into form for the Ardennes, and I was very motivated to show that this is the type of racing that I love the most.

VN: You must have good technique over the cobbles - how did that come about?

AH: I'm not sure my pave skills are particularly great but three years of racing U23 Roubaix and racing cyclo-cross every off season since I was 11 years-old probably helped.

VN: You ride the 'bergs' well - have you always climbed well?

AH: I have a good build for the climbs. I come up a bit short on the really long climbs, but the bergs suit me well.

VN: Catalunya must have been a good tune up for you?

AH: Catalunya was a great experience.

I was there riding support for the team and had a great time looking after and learning from some of the senior members of the team.

Riding the front and getting bottles is a great way to get into shape!

VN: Were you surprised/pleased to get the Amstel call?

AH: I had hoped to do Amstel but I knew that Garmin-Barracuda had a strong roster for the race.

I was surprised and excited to get the call up.

VN: What distance did you get clear in the break and how long were you away?

AH: It took a while for the break to form - maybe 30-40 kilometres? I think we got caught with about 10km to go - so, roughly 215km.

VN: The guys in the break seemed to cooperate well?

AH: Yes, the break worked well together.

Raymond Kreder and I did more than our fair share to show we were committed and this kept the others motivated to ride.

VN: But, there was talk of fisticuffs in there at one point?

AH: I heard about that as well but never saw anything!

Alex HowesVN: Romain Bardet the AG2R rider was very strong, he split the break twice on the run in. You were the only one to respond, the second time.

AH: Yes, Bardet was strong.

I was a bit timid to attack because I wanted to keep Raymond with me as long as possible but I was not willing to let Bardet ride away.

I like his aggressive style and he was a good companion in those final kilometres.

VN: As the kilometres clicked down, did you think you could stay away?

AH: Going into the day my job was to try and make the break to take pressure off the team and so I could help a bit in the final.

I knew that if I made it over the Keutenberg I could help all the way to the finish so that was my goal. With only 20 seconds or so and 15-20km to race I never really thought our odds were high.

VN: You managed to jump on the group when it passed - that must have hurt?

AH: Ha! Yeah, that hurt.

When the group caught me and I looked around I didn't see any Garmin-Barracuda riders.

As I said my goal was to try and help them in the final and when I didn't see anyone I thought, "oh man! I've got to try and win this! How the heck am I going to do that?" Luckily the boys were just playing it cool at the back and I was able to pitch in with positioning them a bit.

VN: You coped well with the distance - was that your longest race?

AH: I've raced Philly twice which is 260km, but this was much more difficult.

VN: Is the Amstel's reputation of having dangerous parcours justified?

AH: It’s hard for me to say - it's not too bad in a beak of nine but I think it would be a different story in a group of 200.

VN: How was the initial step up from Continental to Pro Tour?

AH: Racing-wise, the step up has not been too bad.

Garmin-Barracuda gave me a program that eased me into the top level.

Catalunya was pretty tough but I knew I was not on top form and I think it was hard for everyone with the weather.

VN: You were with VC La Pomme Marseille in 2007. Can you tell us about that, please?

AH: V.C. La Pomme was a good learning experience.

I never really hit my stride there because everything was so new to me - the culture, food, language, the races, everything.

Looking back it was a great experience because it has made the transition to Girona much easier and European racing doesn’t feel foreign to me.

VN: How's Girona working out for you?

AH: I love Girona. We have a fun crew of young riders there and I have really enjoyed getting acquainted with Catalunya.

VN: Do you have a coach, and what's your training philosophy?

AH: I've been coached by Colby Pearce for a number of years now.

We have always tried to keep it simple - lots of base, lots of racing and lots of sleep.

Colby has done a good job of keeping me in check and helping me see the big picture.

VN: Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege - will we see you in action?

AH: I hope so - barring anything extreme, yes….

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