Logan Owen knows he may not see much of the spotlight of the podium and flashes of the cameras in 2020, and he’s fine with that.
Rather than concerning himself with the glory of stage wins, Bremerton-born Owen heads into his third year in the WorldTour with the ambition of forging a path as a road captain.
“I learned a lot over the last season and I’m trying to put that into effect in the next few years,” Owen told VeloNews. “I want to use what I learned to support others and then I really want to step into a captaincy role in the next couple of years.”
“I’ve stepped up my game quite a bit last year, and I think the team wants me to move into a team captain role in the coming years, as opposed to leading races to win,” he said. “A lot of the races I’m scheduled to for 2020 are bigger races and so I won’t have a lot of opportunities for myself – but I’m fine with that.”
Owen has spent the entirety of his WorldTour career with EF Pro Cycling, learning from veteran riders such as Nate Brown, Taylor Phinney, and Mitch Docker. However, the team loses two of its stalwarts in 2020, with Phinney retiring and Brown moving to Rally-UHC. In the coming years, the American outfit will need level heads with a tactical eye to run the race.
A road captain is a team member often away from the media glare but instrumental in reading races, working with directors in organizing the team on the road, and bonding a bunch of individuals into a racing force. It’s one of the most pivotal, yet most often overlooked, positions on a team.
“I can read the races really well, that’s always been a strength – positioning myself, positioning others, reading the race, understanding what might happen,” Owen said. “Skills like those are what a team needs from its captain.”
2019 was a roller-coaster year for 24-year-old Owen. He gutted his way through the classics having had his early season training disrupted through injury. It took ‘til summer for him to really hit his stride, where he supported Tejay van Garderen as he raced to second overall at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Having earned his stripes in support of van Garderen in France, Owen earned a slot of the eight-man Vuelta a Espana team, where he made his grand tour debut. Having entered the race with high hopes, the teams GC game plan came to an abrupt halt in a dark 36-hour period that saw leadership trio van Garderen, Hugh Carthy and Rigobeto Uran all withdrawing with injuries sustained in a crash-riddled sixth stage.
Only five riders remained representing EF’s pink and purple. They rallied around captain Mitch Docker, and battled back to take a dramatic win for Colombian Sergio Higuita in stage 18.
How did Docker keep the scraps of the team together after losing its three figureheads? Kid’s card game Uno. Docker, Owen, Higuita, Danny Martinez, and American Lawson Craddock would gather after dinner to play cards as Australian Docker looked to keep chins high.
“Mitch was the big force in keeping us motivated and keeping us together. He was the road captain, and he took that on both on and off the bike,” said Owen. “We played Uno together after nearly every dinner and gelled so well – it was a special experience. The Uno really made it, that was Mitch’s idea. It’s a kid’s game, but it’s perfect for a stage race so you don’t have to think too much.”
“We never gave up, and that’s how we got the win with Sergio. And a lot of that came from the morale in the team from Juanma [Guarate, Sports Director] and Mitch. The experience really taught me you can’t ever give up when stuff goes bad and just keep grinding it out.”
Owen sees experienced captains in his team such as Docker and Sebastian Langeveld as role-models and templates he’d like to follow. He roomed with Docker for much of the Vuelta and says he learned as much on hte bike as off the bike from the Australian.
However, Owen understands that it may take a season or two more before he’s handed the captain’s armband, and for the meantime wants to mold himself into a key helper for the team in 2020.
“The road captain thing is a longer-term goal,” he said. “This year, I want to be in the final more and play a big part helping other guys win.”
Owen will form a part of EF Pro Cycling’s powerful classics team in 2020, alongside veteran cobble-bashers Langeveld and Sep Vanmarke, 2019 Flanders winner Alberto Bettiol, and new recruits Magnus Cort and Jens Keukeleire. The summer looks set to include a return to the Vuelta a Espana.
One of the riders he’s looking to shepherd to victory at some point in 2020 is former Axeon Hagens Berman teammate Nielsen Powless, who moves over from Jumbo-Visma. Owen isn’t shy to admit where the two’s roles lie.
“I’m looking forward to helping Nielsen win some races next year. He does the winning, I do the helping,” he said.
EF Pro Cycling’s prospects for 2020 are bright with its host of new signings. Whether we see Owen’s face in the podium spotlight or those of his teammates this year, you can be sure the Bremerton boy will have had a hand in it.