You can’t blame Logan Owen for feeling disappointed this fall.
Owen, 21, is one of the veteran riders on Axel Merckx’s Axeon—Hagens Berman development squad. The team has a long history of graduating talented youngsters into the WorldTour, and this season was no different. Greg Daniel was scooped up by Trek—Segafredo and Team Sky nabbed Tao Geoghegan Hart. Youngster Adrien Costa raced with Etixx—Quick-Step as a stagiaire, and even newcomer Neilson Powless reportedly had teams sniffing around him for 2017.
The WorldTour teams left Owen alone.
“I had some pro continental offers but that’s not the route I want to go down,” Owen said. “It was a little disappointing because I know I can compete at [the WorldTour] level.”
The lack of inquiries is somewhat puzzling to Owen, given his two impressive results on his resume. In April, Owen became the first American to win the U23 version of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, a tough 180-km race that serves as a bellwether for future greats. Owen won the race in dramatic fashion too, riding all day in the breakaway before dropping his companions with 20km to go.
The victory came a year after Owen scored Axeon’s biggest result of the season when he won stage 3 of the Tour of Utah in a bunch kick. That victory, Owen said, became a rallying point for the team.
“It seemed like [the stage 5 win] changed the mentality of the team — people really started stepping up their game and we started doing well,” he said. “It created a sense that ‘If he can do it, we can do it too.'”
Owen said the snub hasn’t dulled his desire to race at the WorldTour level. He’ll again race for Axeon in 2017 and will target European events as well as the major U.S. races such as the Tour of California and Tour of Utah.
But in order to make the WorldTour, Owen has changed up his offseason routine, opting to rest his legs instead of racing cyclocross. Owen is perhaps the fastest American cyclocross racer of his generation with 10 national titles. Every fall for the last 13 years, Owen has finished his road cycling season and transitioned right to ‘cross.
This year, Owen called it quits in September and took an entire month off the bike. He said the break was the longest he’s had since he was 13 years old.
“My whole career I’ve basically been racing cross and road with no break — maybe I’d take a week off,” Owen said. “I think that mentally I needed a break. I just got to this point where I was exhausted.”
Owen spent a few days on the couch at his house in Bremerton, Washington. He caught up on the latest season of “Key & Peele” and “House Hunters.” As the days went by, he found himself recovering from the long season. He went shopping and spent time with friends.
“It was great. It’s good to be home,” Owen said.
Owen’s offseason then got even better. He and fiancee Chloe Dygert were married in mid-November in Indianapolis. Dygert is one of the country’s fastest up-and-coming female cyclists on the track and road, and was a member of USA Cycling’s Team Pursuit squad which earned a silver medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The two met at a cyclocross clinic in 2013 at Marian University in Indianapolis. They quickly bonded, and kept in touch through Facebook and Snapchat over the ensuing months. Keeping in touch turned into regular trips to spend time with each other, which eventually led to Dygert moving out to Washington.
Owen says he and Dygert will spend much of 2017 communicating via social media. Their respective travel schedules mean that they will both be on the road for a sizable chunk of the season.
That’s all part of Owen’s plan. If he wants to graduate to the WorldTour, he’s going to have to put in the work.
“I think I can be a good classics rider, I can see myself getting good at those races,” Owen says. “If I don’t, I’ll probably end up racing cyclocross. That’s the nice thing about having both. I have a fallback plan if road doesn’t work out.”