When we talked with Evan Huffman (CalGiant/Specialized) back in March, the 22-year old had just won the Merco Cycling Classic time trial, he stated that the SRAM Tour of the Gila was a big goal for him. He came to the race to win. Well mission accomplished. Huffman clocked the fastest time of 34:23 over the 16.15-mile time trial, beating his own time by almost two minutes.
“I’ve been looking forwards to this race since I first started training in November but it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I really believed I could win the time trial. I made a lot more progress this year than I think anyone could have anticipated.” Huffman told podiuminsight.
The 22-year old beat GC leader Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) by three seconds. Joe Dombrowski (Bontrager-Livestrong) was third, 17 seconds down.
He knew that he was having a great ride from the start. “I knew that I could do it but it was going to take a really good day for me. I felt amazing just from the start, I knew that I was on a really good time. I knew some of my checkpoints from my time last year and I was going a lot faster the whole course and that helped motivate me to go really hard at the end when I was hurting.”
Not much was going through his mind as he zoomed towards the finish with 50 meters to go. “I was just thinking go as hard as you can.”
Behind him in the team car, his mother, celebrating her birthday, was cheering him on, loudly.
After the Redland Bicycle Classic, Huffman drove to Boulder, Colorado to stay with his teammates Robin and Yannick Eckmann and prepare for Gila.
“I have been there for five weeks before Gila started which is the longest amount of time I have ever been at altitude. In the past, for Gila last year and Utah the year before, I just come up a week early and I think that made a big difference because I was able to have a rest week and then do a big block of training at altitude.’ he explained. “Whereas one week here, I’m just struggling every day, you’re still acclimating.”
One thing that he didn’t change was how much time he spent on this Shiv. “I didn’t really ride the time trial bike anymore than I usually do just once or twice a week as always.”
Going for the win in a UCI race with some of the top time trialers is a big ask for such a young rider but Huffman said that he had no trouble with it. “I don’t really struggle with pressure, if anything it helps me I think. Ever since I did sports when I was younger, I was always better in the bigger competitions when it really mattered.”
He said that he wanted to win the stage and he did. Huffman said simply that it felt really good to accomplish his goal.
“I had that first big win at Merco which honestly was a bit of a surprise for me. I knew that I was doing a lot more power in training than ever before but you just never know how fast you’re going to go because it doesn’t always translate, just because of the aerodynamics.”
“This one was a lot smoother because I knew coming in that I could do it and I just wanted it really, really bad. And I did exactly what I needed to go and I pulled it off.”
Huffman moved up to 7th on GC at 2:25 down from Sutherland, and second in the best young rider competition, at 1:59 down from Dombrowski.
Racing continues on Saturday with the 43.2 miles (69.5km)/40 laps downtown Silver City criterium raced on a 1.04 mile, four-corner rectangle with about 80 feet of climbing per lap most of it on the backside.