“You’ve got this Evan! You’ve got this” screamed California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized Team Manager Anthony Gallino to his rider Evan Huffman, with less than 50 meters to go at the US under-23 national time trial championship on Thursday.
Gallino was right, Huffman had it. He clocked the fastest time of the day, a 36:40 on the out-and-back 30 km course on a hot, very hot, and humid afternoon, beating his closest competitor Lawson Craddock (Bontrager-Livestrong) by 17 seconds.
The quiet rider was all smiles at the podium ceremony later that evening.
“It feels really good.” he said.
After his stage win in the time trial at the SRAM Tour of the Gila, Huffman was tagged as a favorite going into the race, and USA Cycling even predicted him as the winner. That’s a lot of pressure to handle.
“It was hard.” Huffman agreed. “A lot more pressure probably more pressure than I felt before for a race the whole season. It made it a little bit harder, a little nervous but at the same time it’s almost more rewarding when you’re able to pull it off.”
He didn’t do any special preparation for the race. After helping his teammate Nate Wilson win the overall at the Mt Hood Cycling Classic, Huffman went home to California. “I’ve been home for the last week and a half. I think I’m pretty well adjusted to the heat.”
Second to last rider to leave the gate, Huffman accelerated out of that first right-hand corner onto the bridge before hitting the rollers. A course he described as “pretty straightforward” with “a little bit more uphill the first half.”
“I thought I was going pretty fast but for the second half I was getting really nervous.” he said of his winning ride. “Because I was struggling, I was going pretty hard.” His strategy was to ride the rollers and recover on the downhill.
At 22 years of age, this is his last season as an under-23 rider, a fact that has weighed on Huffman’s mind. “Definitely having it be my last year put a little more pressure on me, all year really not just for this race.” he said. “I’m looking forwards to doing some races in this jersey.”
Huffman set some big goals earlier this year which included to do well at Gila and Nationals. Well, can’t do better than winning which he accomplished in both. His other goal? To get a contract with a pro team. Pretty sure that’s going to happen too.
As for the screaming from the car, he did hear it. Does it help? Huffman laughed and replied, “No, really I was just going as hard as I could anyways.”