Evan Huffman Interview: From Californian Giant squad to WorldTour Astana team
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Saturday, December 01, 2012

Evan Huffman Interview: From Californian Giant squad to WorldTour Astana team

by Ed Hood at 8:34 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
 
American Under 23 TT champion gets big opportunity for 2013

Evan HuffmanOne of the most surprising signings of the transfer season so far has been the move from the US amateur team Californian Giant to mighty World Tour outfit Astana by 22 year-old Evan Huffman from Elk Grove, California.

Huffman produced some startling time trial results in 2012, beating the likes of Tom Zirbel in the McLane Pacific stage race TT and then besting Rory Sutherland at the Tour of Gila TT before taking the US U23 TT title.

Californian Giant and Astana share the same bike sponsor in Specialized, who spotted Huffman’s potential and recommended him to the Kazakh squad.

His first result of note came in 2008 when he won the US national junior road race title and by 2011 had made the podium of the national U23 road race championship – before his breakthrough season this year

Huffman spoke to VeloNation shortly after he returned from meeting his new team mates at the Astana team’s first get together in Montecatini Terme in Tuscany. He talked about that meeting, the opportunities and challenges he will face next season, his belief that the team is taking the correct stance going forward and also about his strong 2012 season.

VeloNation: How did you get into cycling?

Evan Huffman: To cut a long story short - I started out swimming very young which led to triathlon which led to cycling.

VN: You announced your arrival in 2012 by beating Tom Zirbel over 19 kilometres in the McLane Pacific time trial; did you surprise yourself?

EH: Yes and no; I put in a lot of hard work over the winter and knew exactly what I was capable of, power-wise. I just didn’t know it would translate to that kind of speed.

When I finished I just thought it was a pretty solid day, but it wasn’t until I heard the result that I knew I’d done something special.

VN: Then you beat Rory Sutherland in the Gila TT – that must have been satisfying?

EH: Very much so. I had some good confidence going in, but coming away with the win was still a little surprising.

Rory is a good rider and he was of course on really good form building up for the Tour of California

VN: The Nationals – it must feel good to wear the jersey?

EH: I actually never got to wear it!

I only did a couple TT’s the remainder of the season and they were all with the National Team so I was already representing the red, white, and blue.

I still got the title of National Champion and that’s very special because it’s something everybody can recognize.

VN: Specialized brokered the deal with Astana, but do you have an agent?

EH: Yes; I’m represented by Michael Rutherford. He contacted me early in the year and seemed like a good fit. He’s been very helpful so far and I’m glad I decided to work with him.

VN: Tell us about the first Astana training camp, please.

EH: The first camp was mostly about getting everyone together to plan out the season. We did clothing fittings, some medical tests, and a lot of meetings. There wasn’t too much training on the road.

VN: What’s Montecatini Terme like?

It’s a nice place from what I could tell. I didn’t get to see a whole lot because we didn’t do any long rides and spent a lot of time in the hotel.

VN: What’s the team language – do you have skills other than English?

EH: I speak a little German and just started trying to learn Italian. I’m actually not sure what the official team language is because there’s not one that every single person can understand.

The team meetings at camp took place in Italian because that’s what Martinelli, the manager, speaks.

Most people can speak Italian, but I’m not the only one who doesn’t. So, I’m not quite sure how that’s going to play out during the season.

I guess there are enough people that speak multiple languages someone can always translate and we’ll all get the message, just a little more slowly than would be ideal.

VN: You’ve skipped the Pro Continental/Euro career progression – that’s a big jump.

EH: Maybe it would be easier to take a smaller step forward, but I had the chance to jump straight to the top with one of the best teams in the world and that’s not an opportunity I wanted to turn down.

I think I’m ready for it, but only time will tell.

VN: Some may say that Astana is a controversial team, with Vino at Evan Huffmanthe helm?

EH: I can certainly understand people’s scepticism and can’t get defensive when people ask questions about doping.

I’ve only been with the team from a short period of time, but from my experience this is a very clean team. The atmosphere within the team is positive and the staff has made it very clear that doping will not be tolerated.

So even though I can’t comment for him with absolute certainty, I’m personally optimistic that Vino has moved on from the past and is committed to leading the team in a clean and transparent manner.

VN: Can you give us an insight into the physical tests which take place at a training camp, please?

EH: At this last camp everyone did a basic medical check-up including a blood test just to make sure everyone is healthy and ready to start the season on the right foot.

Some riders also did a lactate threshold test to get a real gauge of fitness, but I was not one of them.

VN: Do they have a bike fit jig – or do they just go on your current position?

EH: We haven’t received the new bikes yet.

That will happen at the next camp in December where there will also be the option to do Specialized’s ‘BG’ bike fit with some personnel from the company to find the optimal position.

There wasn’t a lot of riding on the road at this camp so people were just riding their bikes from this year; or the mechanics set them up a bike on their current position.

VN: As a ‘chrono man’ do they have wind tunnel time planned for you?

EH: No, but that’s definitely something I’d be interested in doing at some point, but I guess it’s just not a priority right now.

If I can get some good results in TTs this year maybe that’s something we will talk about later this season or next winter.

VN: Time trials apart, what are your strengths?

EH: I really like stage races and think I can recover pretty well and be strong in the later stages. I can also be quite good in moderately hilly one-day races.

VN: And what requires work?

EH: My bike handling skills definitely require work. That includes both positioning in the pack and descending.

It’s more difficult in Europe with steeper, narrower roads and bigger field sizes, but I think I will get better over time if I just keep working on it.

VN: Does the team give you any guidelines about what they want you to do over the winter; and if you have a coach, how does he fit in?

EH: Not really.

Maybe at the December camp they will give me some idea of what they’d like me to be doing, but I think it is largely going to be up to me and my personal coach.

I’ve been working with Felicia Gomez for about 3.5 years now with great success.

VN: Where will you be based in Europe and why?

EH: Most likely near Brescia, Italy.

There I will be close to several teammates and staff which will make my transition to European life a little easier.

VN: Lance – what’s a young man’s take on the ‘sins of the fathers?’

EH: To me, it’s been pretty obvious for some time now that Lance is a “bad guy”.

I think what was revealed in the USADA report was worse than a lot of people imagined.

There was a lot of terrible stuff going on there.

For sure cycling is much cleaner now, but I think there’s still a lot of change that needs to happen.

I don’t know exactly what that should look like, but I think the best thing I can do is just make a personal commitment that I will never let myself be tempted to dope and try to be a good role model for others.

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