Deceuninck-Quick-Step staffer Brian Holm has high hopes for young American Ian Garrison, but for now, the pressure is off.
Holm, who as acted as Sport Director at Deceuninck-Quick-Step since 2012, spoke of his hopes and plans for the ‘wolfpack’s’ latest signing during a phone interview.
“He’s a complete rider, he can do a bit of Belgium, he can maybe do some leadout, and then maybe even GC,” Holm told VeloNews. “It will take a while before you realize how you’re going to use a rider. If he’s very good he can be the same thing like [Julian] Alaphilippe or [Michal] Kwiatkowski in the past.”
At just 21-years-of age, the rookie Georgean’s path could take him in any direction. Having beaten a host of WorldTour riders at the U.S. national time trial championships in June this year, he’s got the power to batter over the cobblestones that Quick-Step call home, but Holm is impressed by his climbing chops too.
“Is he good on the cobbles, in Flanders? Or is he gonna be going to be good in Liege, or is he going to ride climb and ride for the GC?” said Holm. “Where are we going to put him, nobody knows. Probably not even Kwiatkowski knows what’s good for him now, if it’s Flanders or liege, so we’ll help Garrison to decide.”
Garrison joins a team brimming with wisened heads, even after the loss of head wolf Philippe Gilbert to Lotto-Soudal. With the absence of Gilbert’s mentoring presence, Holm is expecting riders such as Zdenek Stybar, Michael Morkov, and Yves Lampaert to step up to look after the young wolves on the team in 2020.
The grizzled vets on Quick-Step’s ever-successful team will be looking after not only Garrison, but 19-year-old sensation Remco Evenepoel and rising British all-rounder, James Knox. The 24-year-old held a top-10 slot at the Vuelta a Espana this year before being knocked down to 11th in the final weekend of the race.
“The bigger riders with the bigger contracts, they have to take the pressure off the young kids,” explained Holm, who is taking a lighter role in the team for 2020 as he pursues other interests.
Even under the guidance of the likes of 34-year-old leadout king Morkov, Garrison will race his first year at Quick-Step free of pressure.
“We have a sort of idea for his schedule, but like most of our riders, we just let them grow,” explained Holm. “There’s no panic, no pressure. If he can ride for the win one time, then everybody’s happy.”
“They will have a lighter program. Even Evenepoel, we don’t say he’s going to win anything in 2020.”
Quick-Step is as Belgian a team as you can get, and you can count on one hand the number of with a list of non-Europeans on their recent line-ups. The last North American to ride for this most Belgian of teams was Adrien Costa, for one year in 2016.
“I know Garrison because he was in contract with Hincapie Juniors [in 2015],” said Holm. “George knows him very good. And so I’ve known him and been looking at him for a while.”
Just as Simmons’ trajectory looks set to take a cobbled path, with ambitions for Gent-Wevelgem and early season classics on the stones, Holm predicts his young American will flourish in the winds and grit of Belgium.
“I think he’s gonna be good in Belgium,” he said of Garrison. “I think he can handle his bike. A lot of GC specialists are terrible with bike handling, but he’s one of the better, and that’s why he comes to our team.”
Garrison and Simmons could be going head-to-head on the stones before we know it.