This is the second NCCN interview following Cal Cup contenders, don’t miss our last interview that followed Annie Fulton. Evan Huffman (Cal-Giant) is no stranger to success. He’s got a national championship under his belt from his junior days and has done the tour of successful NorCal teams like Lombardi’s, Yahoo!, and California Giant Strawberries. Huffman has impressed many the last few years, but In the process of following Cal Cup I have been impressed by both his thoughtfulness, attention to detail, and his willingness to fully embrace the lifestyle needed to make it as a cyclist. With several Cal Cup races still to go, including his favorite Challenge RR, Huffman is going to be a hard man to beat as he gears up for a National Team tour later this fall.
You have always been a NorCal rider to watch, but you have been on a different level since July. Do any of your races pop out as particularly special to you?
I would say Nationals. I was just ok in the time trial (7th), but I think my 3rd in the RR was a great ride. Of course, I would have rather won, but it’s hard to say if that was even possible. I’m just happy with it because I showed a lot of physical strength/endurance, but also raced hard for 3rd even after the top 2 spots were up the road.
Looking at your NorCal racing, you are just tearing up Cal Cup right now – at what point this year did you decide you wanted to give it a go?
I think sometime around Cascade. I had my fingers crossed I wouldn’t be able to do many of the races because I’d be in Europe with the National Team, but that didn’t work out. I’m always fittest in August and September. Last year I got to do Utah, but obviously that wasn’t an option this year. I just thought if all I can do is local racing, I might as well win. However, I just found out I’m doing the Tour of China September 9-19 with the National Team so that is great.
Tour of China sounds cool, are there any stages that you will target while you are there?
I will just be taking it day by day and looking for opportunities. On paper, seem like stages 3, 4, and 8 are the hardest which would normally be the best for me. It’s hard to say exactly how the race will unfold.
I have been impressed by how thoughtful and detail oriented you come across – do you do any recon before a stage race like that?
There were very few races this year I did for the first time, so that made it easy. Tour of the Gila was the obvious exception, but I was there early to acclimate to the elevation so I ended up riding most of the stages. There’s not a huge variety of roads in Silver City. I usually don’t go out of the way to recon stages, but if it’s convenient I’ll check out the courses when I come to a race early.
Coaching – In your opinion how important is it for an athlete racing at your level to have a coach, and how do you use?
For me, it’s been huge. I know a lot of people coach themselves and maybe that’s great for them, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that. It’s good to have someone else to learn and grow with especially being a young rider. A lot of things are new for me. For example, China will be 10 days of racing and the most I’ve done before is 6 so it will be interesting to see how my body reacts during and after the race. I’ve been coached by Felicia Gomez for just over 2 years now and we work great together. If you’re going to have a coach, communication is key. I call Felicia several times a week to talk about how I’m feeling, how the upcoming training/races look, and anything about physiology or nutrition I’m curious about.
What kind of time/milages do you put into training during the year – the level of commitment strikes me as something a lot of up and coming racers really do not get.
I probably ride about 15 hours a week on average. That might not seem like much, but it’s all about intensity for me. My training is very scientific and I’m always doing specific intervals using power. I rarely go out and “just ride” for longer than an hour. Once you get to a certain level of fitness, those rides are just a waste of time. A lot of people subscribe to the old-school mentality: The more you ride, the stronger you get. That’s just not how I train. Sure, there are long rides, but I’ve always got one eye on the power meter making sure I’m doing something that’s going to make me stronger. I also normally ride 6 days a week and have one day completely off. So, it takes a big commitment, but more hours on the bike doesn’t equal more fitness and there’s a lot you can do off the bike (eating right, getting lots of sleep, stretching/massage).
You came up through the junior ranks which is helpful if you are looking to make a career our of it How did you get started racing?
I started out swimming, which led to triathlons, which led to cycling. I did my first cycling races in 2007, just a few junior and Cat5 races for training. I was on the Lombardi Sports Tri Team and the cycling guys wanted me to do more races with them. After a terrible showing at Triathlon Age Group Worlds and moving away to college, I was ready to try something new for 2008. I did a lot of collegiate racing, but also quickly got my Cat 2 upgrade. I won the Road Race at Junior Nationals that year, went to Europe, and decided I wanted to be a professional cyclist.
Your mother (@regulorry) is a prolific tweeter [ed note. must follow if you want updates from the road at various races] and seems to follow racing very closely. Describe they role your family has had in your success?
Yes – @regulorry is my mom. She is very supportive now. When I first decided to quit school…not so much. Most people told me I was stupid and throwing away a great opportunity and I think my parents felt the same way, but never said it in such harsh words. I saw it the other way around. That’s part of what makes cycling such a tough sport. There are a lot of ups and downs and it’s often hard to see progress even when you’re making a lot. My parents are very supportive now that they see how motivated I am to make it happen. My mom comes to all the races she can, even taking time off work for the bigger NRC races. I really appreciate the emotional and financial support. Seems kinda shallow to bring up the money, but honestly, living at home rent-free with little to no expenses makes cycling a lot easier. I can focus all my energy on training and racing.
In addition to your family you have a top notch team behind you. Cal Giant is producing some awesome young riders, Talansky, Bennett, not to mention the older guys. What kind of support are they giving you that works out so well?
For me, the laid-back atmosphere is huge. There’s little or no pressure for results from the management or older riders. They understand we’re young and different people are going to develop at a different pace. I also like having the older mentor riders not just around, but out there racing with us. Experience is a huge part of cycling and having those guys around to watch, and ask questions has been really good for me this season. Of course, we also have excellent equipment support from Specialized, SRAM, Zipp, etc. The equipment is on par or better than any domestic Continental team.
With such a large cast of characters at Cal-Giant who is your favorite person to room with when you are on the road?
Chris Stastny with an honorable mention to Jesse Moore. Chris has had a very positive influence on me mentally this year. I have a tendency to get really down on myself when I don’t race well and also get stressed about things can’t control. I’ve learned to let go of poor performances because there’s nothing you can do but move on, learn from it, and try to do better next time. I can’t count how many times I have been super stressed about my bike being dirty, not having super-healthy food, or something else relatively unimportant and Chris has told me to just chill out and focus on racing. Jesse is great because he knows something about everything and a lot about bike racing. You can ask him about aerodynamics, diet, training, tactics, etc. and he’s always happy to share some great information. However, I will say Chris and Jesse both tend to get really grumpy when they’re hungry, but it’s not a huge problem because they’ll eat almost anything.
Where does college and career fit in your plans?
I went to school at Cal Poly for 4 quarters (1 and 1/3 of a year), but made the difficult decision to put that on hold and focus on cycling. Ironically, it was being in SLO that really got me into cycling. I did a lot of collegiate races, made some great friends there, and really just fell in love with the sport. I went to Europe after winning Junior Nationals in 2008 and really liked the whole Euro Pro thing. I got invited to go back for 10 weeks the next spring and that’s what pushed me over the edge in the school vs cycling debate. I’m not sure where I’ll be in 5-10 years, but for now the plan is to see how far I can go in the world of cycling. I’m in a great environment with Cal-Giant to do that and am already looking forward to seeing what we can do next year.
Any thoughts on your 2012 team?
I think it’s still a little early to say for sure, but most likely I’ll stick with Cal Giant for another year. I’ve been extremely happy. I feel really loyal to the team and sponsors for having some faith and giving me such great opportunities this year.
Ok… final brain buster Rand vs. Reaney: Not to give away any secrets but if you were Rand’s coach (yes we all know he’s un-coachable) but if you were) how would you guide him to beat Reaney in a crit. Purely hypothetical of course.
Hmmm…that is a tough one. Rand is a good rider, but Steve is REALLY good. I would lose to him too, but luckily we’re on the same team. Head to head, in a 2-man break like they’ve been doing, Reaney just has a huge advantage. He’s a better sprinter and has a strong team behind him so he doesn’t necessarily need to work that hard. Rand’s best chance is to get up the road without Reaney…or just wait until he retires. No offense, Rand. I just have a lot of respect for Steve and think he’s an excellent bike racer.
Sorry Rand – i tried! Better just wait till he retires.
If you see Huffman on the road give him a good heckling and help get him stoked for his trip to China with the national team.
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