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In the first week alone, Powless has ridden into two winning breakaways, helped Rigoberto Urán avoid losses in the crosswinds, went on the attack on Col d’Eze in the opening weekend, and posted two top-5’s in stages. What a start.
“Considering how the first week has gone, I’d say I am just really happy with my performance,” Powless told VeloNews. “This is all experience in the bank. Every time you race, you learn something. I’m confident I can come back and win a stage at the Tour de France.”
Powless, 24, earned his Tour debut on the highly competitive EF Pro Cycling team. With Urán, Sergio Higuita and Dani Martínez starting as leaders back in Nice, Powless came into the Tour with little responsibility other than doing what he can to protect the team leaders.
Powless clearly has more ambitions than just being a bottle-carrier in his first Tour.
“None of these breaks are easy to get into and everybody knew again today that this could get to the finish so he did really well there,” said EF sport director Tom Southam. “Neilson is super enthusiastic; this is his first Tour. That was his first proper mountain stage he’s done, going through the crowds you could see him at the top of the Peyresourde.”
Powless might have a few more chances before the Tour is over. Going into Monday’s rest day, the 24-year-old was flying high.
“I don’t feel like I am on the back foot yet,” Powless said. “I was getting chills. It was amazing. The pain just goes away when you go through a crowd like that .”
Powless is one of three U.S. riders in this Tour. Teammate Tejay van Garderen is saving his legs to help in the Alps, while Sepp Kuss on rival Jumbo-Visma has also been doing some heavy lifting for his captains.
Powless is embracing the opportunities that afford to him, and making a few of his own.
“It’s amazing being able to really be a part of the race,” he said. “It’s incredible. If my role was to sit in the group and support Rigo [Urán] and do my best with that I’d be happy, and that will be my role soon enough. When I do have the opportunity to be in the break it’s an amazing experience, really making the most of this rare opportunity to race the Tour de France.”
Powless, who has already been tapped as a potential GC captain in the future, is soaking up the lessons every chance he gets.