The Trek-Segafredo rider was third in a breakaway behind Vuelta stage-crusher Magnus Cort (EF Education-Nippo) in stage 19, and following a quick break, prepares for his debut at both the elite men’s world championships and Paris-Roubaix.
“It will be cool at Roubaix,” Simmons told VeloNews. “With Mads [Pedersen] and Jasper [Stuyven] both being on a level to win it, we will be there to support them, and hopefully one of them will get their first cobble.”
Before that will be the elite men’s road race on September 26, where Simmons will be part of a solid U.S. team that teammate Lawson Craddock said he believes will be in the hunt for the rainbow jersey within the next five years.
Simmons, a junior world road champion in 2019, said he’s going to go “flat out” to finish out the season with worlds and Roubaix.
“Putting on the jersey [in 2019] was one of the best days of my life, and I am not going to say it’s going to happen again this year, but someday I’d like to put on that jersey again,” Simmons said during the Vuelta. “We know it’s going to be a selective course, so we will have a good team and see if we can do something.”
Finishing the Vuelta on a high
Simmons finished his grand tour debut on a high last week in Santiago de Compostela that capped an important few months of racing for the 20-year-old, second-year pro.
Simmons punched to his first pro victories this summer with a stage win and the overall at the Tour de Wallonie, an important milestone for any young pro. He started the Vuelta on the back foot, however, following an illness during the Tour de l’Ain in France in July a few weeks before the Spanish grand tour started.
Also read: Here’s what Simmons said after stage 19
“I’m excited to finish my first grand tour,” Simmons told VeloNews. “My feeling improved in the final week, especially compared to how I was feeling in the first week. After Tour de l’Ain, I was sick for 10 days, and didn’t ride my bike so much. With the antibiotics, it took me two weeks to get the body going again.”
“My hardest day? Every day in the first week,” Simmons continued. “I was dropped on the first sprint day, that’s how bad I was going. And on the first mountain day, I was in the ‘gruppetto’ and I was really suffering the first two weeks.”
Getting back on track in 2021
Simmons, 20, is relieved to get through the 2021 season with a focus once again on racing.
His rookie year was engulfed with controversy following a social media firestorm, and he sat out the end of 2020, missing the road worlds and Paris-Roubaix, which was eventually canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Simmons got a taste of the spring classics in 2021, and ended the second half of the season with his first important results since turning pro as a teenager in 2020 at just 19.
After riding back into full health in the second half of the Vuelta, Simmons rode into two breakaways in the final week, and nearly won stage 18 out of a five-rider break to hit third on the stage.
“It’s nice to be there, but you always race to win,” Simmons told VeloNews. “I am a racer who will never be satisfied with a podium, but it’s a good sign going forward, and gives a little bit of motivation.
“The most surprising was how full-gas everything was every day,” he said. “You expect people to start to get tired by the third week, but every day has been a big fight. It’s really impressive, the level of the field.”
Simmons’ parents were among the throng during the last week of the Vuelta, and stayed with him in his home base in Girona, Spain, as he recovered from the Vuelta.
Both Simmons and his younger brother, Colby, will be racing in Leuven in the world championships. Simmons will debut in the elite category, while Colby, the U.S. national junior champion, will be among the favorites in the junior category.
With a two-year contract extension in his pocket to stay with Trek-Segafredo through 2023, Simmons is looking for long-term payback from his Vuelta ride.
“Hopefully I will get some fitness out of the Vuelta. Everyone says how much stronger you are after your first grand tour, so hopefully, next year will be a better year,” he said. “I am not as bad as I expected.”