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NANNING, China (VN) — American Neilson Powless is completing a dream. He always wanted to be a professional athlete, and his first year doing so ends at China’s Tour of Guangxi.
The 22-year-old is racing through China in LottoNL-Jumbo’s yellow colors and gaining experience to add to his 2017 debut at the WorldTour level.
“This is the dream, what I was trying to accomplish for a long time without even knowing it,” Powless told VeloNews.
“I was running and doing triathlons in high school, and not even a cyclist until I was out of high school and racing in the under-23 ranks. This year put me in that role, the dream of being a professional athlete. I love it.”
His teammates joked as they prepared for stage 3 in Nanning, a city of 6.9 million. The roster also includes first year WorldTour professional Sepp Kuss.
“This is a relaxed team, we have a lot of success with that mindset,” Powless continued.
“Everyone is super approachable and willing to help where they can. It’s been awesome to be part of a team like that. I thank them for their faith and developing a couple of young Americans with me and Sepp.”
Kuss won the Tour Utah and raced the Vuelta a España, which was a rare exception for the team to allow a first year rider to participate in a grand tour. Powless showed promise all the way through 2018, including a stunning ride over nearly 300 kilometers in the Milano-Sanremo Italian monument.
“I’ll keep improving day in and day out, getting the most out of myself. The team had done a really good job of developing riders, you have to trust the team and I did a really good job with that. And I’m having fun with it at the same time,” he added.
“I’m not thinking about [already proving myself for a 2020 contract]. As long as I’m improving, doing my job properly. I haven’t thought about it too much. I am just making sure I am getting the most out of myself.”
Powless raced several WorldTour events like Milano-Sanremo and the Critérium du Dauphiné this season. He also helped his squad win the team time trial at the Tour of Britain.
The Tour of Guangxi will wrap up Sunday, which means Powless will have raced for roughly 65 days this year.
“It’s been a pretty long one, starting in January and finishing in October. My longest season to date. I’ve learned a lot,” Powless said.
“The team has done well in preparing me on how to fuel myself and training me to prepare for longer races. It’s more mentally challenging than physically.
“It’s about learning the lifestyle and getting used to it. Learning how to prepare for races properly than be smashing them all year. In your first couple of years, at least, I think it’s difficult to do that. You have to be real with yourself and make sure you are fit for the races where you are expected to perform.
“It was a lot of race days. In every race at this level, you come away with something. I want to capitalize on it and take it into next year. I definitely learned a lot. Going into 2019, I’ll be able to look back on this year at what I learned and capitalize on it if my fitness is good.”