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There are three tiers of professional teams: WorldTeam, ProTeam, and Continental. At the Tour of Turkey, American Noah Granigan of the Continental squad Wildlife Generation went up against a number of WorldTeam and ProTeam outfits and ended the week with the King of the Mountains jersey.
It was a good result by any measure, but also a gratifying win for the engineering school graduate who had lost his condo, his bikes, and all his other possessions in a Colorado wildfire earlier in the year. Further, he and Wildlife Generation pulled off the KOM win in front of team sponsor Leah Sturgis, who was in attendance that week at the same race where last year Granigan had left a neck brace.
“I was happy to come back to the Tour of Turkey and get redemption and then some,” Granigan said.
From early February until this week, Granigan had been living on the road. He and his teammates raced the Tour of Rwanda and then headed to Turkey for a month-long training camp and some one-day races, all with an eye toward the Tour of Turkey.
“Our director Matty Rice was sitting on the scooter [for motorpacing] for most of the month,” Granigan said. “That, plus living with your coworkers 24/7, going full on… it was great to be able to put on a show for Leah Sturgis. She is supporting this whole thing, so to ride well with her there while wearing her kit was really great.”
There are 18 UCI WorldTeams, including the American-based EF Education-EasyPost and Trek-Segafredo squads. There are 16 ProTeams, and then there are dozens of Continental teams, most of which you probably have not heard of. (Maloja Pushbikers or China Glory, anyone?) Seven Continental teams are U.S.-based: EF Education-Nippo Development, Team Illuminate, Team Novo Nordisk Development, Hagens Berman Axeon, L39ION of Los Angeles, Team Skyline, and Wildlife Generation.
Following the plan in Turkey
With their leader Serghei Tvetcov coming back from injury, Wildlife Generation didn’t have a rider for the general classification, so the team went for stage wins and aimed for the KOM competition with Granigan.
“Starting with stage 1, the plan was ‘let’s get Noah in the break,'” Granigan said. “Actually got Jonny [Clarke] got in the break instead, but I was able to take the lead in the KOM competition in stage 2, and hold it through the GC day of stage 4.”
The stage wins went to WorldTeams and ProTeams, with the likes of Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), Kaden Groves (BikeExchange-Jayco), and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) scooping up victories.
Granigan meanwhile focused on points, and when Eduardo Sepulveda of the ProTeam Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli won on the climb-heavy stage 4, Granigan was encouraged that he had the legs to stay in contention.
Sepulveda actually moved into the lead in the climber’s competition as well on stage 4, but since he was in the overall lead Granigan stayed in the red climber’s jersey, and then retook it after stage 5.
“Having the jersey kind of helps in getting into the break, because the GC guys know we’re not going to stop until we get into the break, and their teams are the ones dictating who is going to chase what,” he said.
On stage 6, Granigan was encouraged that he could hold off WorldTour riders who challenged him for KOM points.
“It was good being to climb with guys like Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto-Soudal). I mean, I was just watching him at Liège-Bastogne-Liège,” Granigan said. “So it was like, alright, I’ve got some breakaway points, now let’s see if I can climb with the guys who are here for the GC. And I was able to come around Harm. That was great for the confidence.”
Wildfire for the Wildlife rider
On December 30, the Marshall Fire in Boulder County, Colorado quickly got out of control and burned more than 1,000 structures — including the one that Graningan had been living in.
“We lost everything. All my bikes were gone,” he said. “While we were getting our team equipment sorted, Specialized Boulder was able to let me use one of their demo bikes in January for training. Since our team is sponsored by Specialized it was pretty easy to just move my measurements across.”
Granigan spoke to VeloNews from his car as he drove across the U.S. after visiting his parents on the east coast.
“My girlfriend got us a new place in Superior [Colorado]. While I was gone, she did all of it,” he said. “So right now I’m heading to a new address that I’ve never seen.”
The road behind, and the road ahead
Granigan’s crash at the 2021 Tour of Turkey made headlines.
“Setting up for the sprint in stage 4, an Alpecin leadout guy was coming backwards through the field. He just kinda sat up. I got pinched into him, which took me straight into and over the fencing,” Granigan said. “It was not a graceful exit from the Tour of Turkey.”
And while that crash and others are certainly in the back of his mind, Granigan says as a racer you have to move past things.
“If you’re not racing at 100 percent confidence, it’s not going to go well,” he said. “If you’re the first person to break every time, you’re not going to be in a position to win a bike race.”
Winning the KOM jersey in a field with WorldTeams and ProTeams definitely boosted his confidence for the season ahead.
“Until last year, I always saw myself as a sprinter,” said the 6’3″ rider. “I didn’t have a goal of ‘let’s make me a better climber,’ but I’ve definitely become more versatile. Now that I have proved that to myself, I feel like there is a lot more possibility in what I can do, and also how I can help other riders in our team.”
Next up for Granigan, following a well-earned bit of rest at his new home, will be the Joe Martin Stage Race in May, followed by Armed Forces [Cycling Classic] in June, road nationals, then the Tour of Romania.
“After that,” he said, “who knows?”