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Cole House is one of the lesser known members of the next generation of American road cyclists, a group that includes emerging young riders like Tejay Van Garderen, Andrew Talansky, Bjorn Selander, Peter Stetina, Ben King and Taylor Phinney.
But the 22-year-old may get on the radar screen of more American cycling fans soon. BMC is announcing this week that House will ride as a stagiaire, jumping into the pro races along with his compatriot Phinney, who is riding as stagiare for RadioShack.
As a stagiaire, House, who is already a member of BMC’s U23 squad, will get a tryout with the pro team, alongside riders like Cadel Evans, George Hincapie and Alessandro Ballan.
“It’s an opportunity to show himself in the pro peloton for the first time,” said Jim Ochowicz, BMC Racing Team’s president. “That’s obviously a pretty important part of a rider’s career … It’s up to the rider to seize the opportunity and show what they can do.”
Although Phinney and Selander are fairly well-known in the U.S., House has come up through USA Cycling’s development program in Belgium, racing on the national team and for BMC’s development squad. Like Van Garderen (another graduate of the USA development squad, who is now on HTC-Columbia), House is a rare sight at U.S races (House did score a win on U.S. soil this year, in the final stage of Arizona’s Valley of the Sun in February. He also was fourth at the Merced criterium in California).
House grew up on Wisconsin’s Oneida Indian Reservation and his team believes he may be the first Native American professional cyclist. He started bike racing in BMX, then moved to cross-country mountain bike racing before switching to the road when he was 18.
On the road. House, at six-foot-one and 175 pounds, is built for the tougher one-day classics, a talent he showed by becoming the first American to win the 130km U23 G.P. Waregem, in 2009. In brutal weather conditions, House was one of just 38 finishers that day, out of nearly 200 starters. The result put him in good company: the previous best American finisher was Tyler Farrar, who was second in 2005.
“Looking at what Tyler is doing now, it’s a pretty good indicator for Cole’s potential,” said USA National development coach Noel Dejonckheere at the time. Dejonckheere is now an assistant director sportif for the BMC team.
House’s career highlights
Merco Cycling Classic stage 1, 4th
Valley of the Sun Criterium, 1st
International Cycling Classic (Superweek), stage 11, 1st
GP Waregem, Under 23 (BEL), 1st
Giro della Montagna, Gateway Cup (USA), 2nd
Tour de Namur, Vezin-Andenne, stage 1 (BEL), 3rd
Lafayette Park, Gateway Cup (USA), 4th
Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux (BEL), stage 2b, 7th
Tour of Belize, stage 3 (BIZ), 1st
Tour of Flanders U23 (BEL), 7th
VeloNews spoke with House a few weeks ago, as the U.S. elite national championships were underway in Bend, Oregon. While many U.S. riders his age focus on nationals as an opportunity for a career breakthrough, House was at home in Wisconsin, between racing blocks in Europe.
“When I’m home, I’m resting,” said House, explaining why he was not in Bend. “That’s part of being in Europe full time. The last time I did nationals was the U23 nats when I was 19. Since then it’s always been a climber’s course that doesn’t suit me.”
Staying with the development team in Europe has made House into a different racer than if he’d stayed on the domestic circuit.
“I do kind of feel like I’ve missed out on something, sometimes,” he said. “Sometimes I look at the guys in the States and they are a lot more comfortable. But they are just not getting the experience. It’s a totally different racing style, harder distances.”
House’s adaptation to the European style of racing will get tested during his stagiare season, predicted John Lelangue, BMC’s director sportif.
“There’s a big difference between amateur U23 racing and pro level. It’s a good experience for him and for him to see where he is and what we can expect in the future. The most important thing is for him to get experience on this level. He has to enjoy all the races where he is selected and get experience for the future.”