There is a new generation of riders coming up, brimming with talent to the degree that they pass directly from the junior ranks to the World Tour. Last year Belgian wünderkid Remco Evenepoel stormed to victory in the Clasica San Sebastian and the European time trial championships as a 19-year-old. And this year American Quinn Simmons hopes to make a similar impression. Still only 18, Simmons graduated to the World Tour with the Trek-Segafredo team after winning the junior edition of the Gent-Wevelgem classic as well as the world road championship road race last year.
A natural born classics rider, Simmons has been hard at work in 2020 and already has three races under his belt, as he raced in the Challenge Mallorca in Spain as well as l’Etoile des Besseges and the Tour de la Provence in France. And he just seems to getting better by the day.
“It’s good but it’s definitely been a big change,” Simmons told VeloNews at le Tour de la Provence last week. “But I’m getting used to it and improving each race day. The way the races are raced is so different. They are much more controlled in the beginning of the race and then way faster in the end. So I am learning how to play the game differently and improving every day.”
After getting his feet wet in Spain and helping on team duties in Besseges, Simmons had an opportunity to ride for himself on two of the stages in Provence. And he instantly showed that he has what it takes to mix it up in the high-octane field sprints in the professional peloton.
The opening stage to Saints-Maries-de-la-Mer in Provence finished with a long run-in over the wind-swept marshes of the French Camargue before entering into town for a technical final kilometer. Positioning was key, and Simmons held his own to finish in the top 10.
You can read our Power Analysis column about Quinn Simmons’s power files from Provence.
Simmons admits that his biggest challenge has been adapting to different racing rhythm at the pro ranks.
“On these sprint days, it is so controlled in the first two hours. You are not really racing,” he said. “But then the last 40 kilometers are just crazy fast speeds. I’m not used to that. But I am happy where I am at for the moment.”
On the final day Simmons rode even more impressively. The stage laced its way through the back roads of Provence from Avignon to Aix-en-Provence, and was riddled with climbs. The pack splintered on numerous occasions, with many of the sprinters finishing well behind.
Simmons, by contrast, could be seen at the front all day. And while the pack failed to catch the four-man breakaway in the final meters, Simmons finished sixth in the field sprint for another top-10 finish.
With a third race already in his pocket this season, Simmons returned to Mallorca, where he was staying this winter, packed up his bags and moved up to Oudenaarde in the heart of Belgian classics country. Simmons clearly dreams of riding the classics and cannot wait to start his first season of them as a professional.
“We talked a lot during the Etoile des Besseges and I really encouraged him to spend time in Belgium before the classics so that he can train on the cobbles and really know the roads in the races,” said Trek-Segafredo sports directeur Steven de Jongh. De Jongh, a former Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne winner is the team’s head director sportif in the classics and he has been working closely with Simmons since he joined the team.
But while Simmons could shine in virtually all of the cobbled classics, one stands about the others. “Ah that has to be Paris-Roubaix.”
Roubaix will clearly be a focus this year for Simmons, but the team has yet to define his entire classics program this spring.
“For the moment we are not sure just how many of the classics he will do,” de Jongh said. “This year is a learning process for Quinn and for us. We have such a good team for the classics and every rider must earn their spot. He obviously has tremendous potential in all of the classics, but that doesn’t mean he will do them all in his first year. We just have to see how he is recovering. Roubaix is obviously a big objective for him, but we haven’t defined his exact schedule leading up to that. We are not sure yet if he will do Flanders for example. We don’t want him to come to Roubaix tired. Obviously if he is recovering well and riding strongly he could do Flanders and Roubaix, but we just have to see.”
But while his upcoming classics schedule has yet to be defined, one thing his certain, Simmons wants to ride as many as possible.