In our first conversation, back to December of last year, we met the then 20-year old (now 21) Alex Howes when he shared his adventures of racing in Europe as part of one of the best amateur teams in France. In 2009, Howes returned to his roots, rejoining the Slipstream organization to race with the U23 team Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin. His long-term goal has not changed, he is still focused on racing full-time in Europe as a professional by the end of the U23 so in 2010 or 2011.
Howes is currently racing at the Cascade Cycling Classic where he went on a long break yesterday only to be caught in the final climb to the finish. A few weeks ago, I caught up with Alex to get his thoughts on his season so far.
“It’s been going pretty solid season, nothing extraordinary but all around pretty good. The team has been pretty good, as a team we’ve had a petty solid season, can’t complain.” said Howes.
The development squad started off strong with its first NRC race by getting top 3 finishes in two stages at the Redlands Cycling Classic, and taking the overall in the KOM and team classification. Some were surprised by the strong showing but not Howes.
“I don’t mean to sound like an asshole but we didn’t really surprise ourselves, it’s what we expected out of ourselves, we wanted a stage win, we came close, it wasn’t necessarily a disappointment but it wasn’t an over joyous thing, we were happy with it but we weren’t ecstatic.”
Following Redlands, Howes were over to Europe to take on races such as the prestigious Paris-Roubaix Espoir in France and Olympia’s Tour in the Netherlands. The Paris-Roubaix race was a short affair for Howes as he had to give up his wheel for his teammate Kirk Carlsen who flatted on the fifth cobble section. “That was the end of the day for me. I got to do a nice training with my buddy Julian all the way home.” chuckled Howes.
Going into the race in admittedly “sub-par form”, Howes won the most aggressive rider in the second to last stage at Olympia’s Tour.
“I wanted to be good for Philly, I had to bring it down a little bit, Olympia’s Tour was a lot harder that I thought it would be, it was a tough race, as a team we rode pretty well.”
The team is not making friends in Europe and that’s okay with Howes.
“I don’t think many of those guys like us, to tell you the truth we don’t give them a reason to like us, we go in, red-eyes and elbows out and we don’t expect them to do anything different to us.” said Howes.
“It’s a different type of racing over there, more aggressive. The simple fact that they don’t race a full season against us and we don’t race a full season against them means that we can pretty much do anything we want to each other, ” chucked Howes, “and not face any consequences the next weekend.”
On his return to North America, Howes raced at Philly and at the Tour de Beauce. While happy with his form in the season so far, Howes was looking for something bigger and expressed frustration with his riding.
“My form is where I would expect to be, I’m not disappointed in how I’m riding but at the same time, I’m not astounded. I wanted to come into Beauce a little better, but I had good legs but not getting the flow down. It’s been a little frustrating. ”
But getting the form and flow combination is not an easy thing to achieve.
“If it was [easy], everybody would be winning all the time. Its funny, you come into some races, like Gila, I didn’t have really good form and I hit the podium twice. Honestly, I think I could have won both of those if things had gone a little bit different. In Beauce, I have better form but no flow. Hopefully, I can find some mojo, scrap some good luck out of the bottom of the bucket and give it a go.”
Howes is enjoying racing in the USA again but he’s still focused on his goal of racing professionally in Europe.
“It’s been a lot of fun, racing in the States is always fun, you get to eat good food, speak English and chase girls around so it’s been a blast on that front. The level of racing in the US these days is pretty good. It’s been nice to have a season where I can go out and instead of fighting for gruppetto I’m shooting for the podium.” said Howes. “Hopefully it’s not a permanent thing, not to say that the racing isn’t good here but my heart is in Europe.”
Still on track for returning to Europe?
“I need to win a race this year. Get that figured out.”