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Quinn Simmons on WorldTour jump: “It’s a risk but there’s risk in waiting, too”

Rather than race for a development squad, Quinn Simmons will make his WorldTour debut at age 18. The world champ says he's ready for the jump.

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Shortly after he won the UCI Junior World Road Championships, American Quinn Simmons revealed that he had signed with Trek-Segafredo for 2020 and 2021. Rather than dip his toe into the professional ranks by signing with an under-23 development squad, Simmons will make his WorldTour debut at age 18.

Simmons told VeloNews that his decision to step up stems from his desire to focus on the cobblestone classics races such as the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

“Typically, as an American racer, you see a focus on stage racing. I want to do the Classics,” Simmons explained. “To be successful there, you have to have the experience in those big races. To begin next year learning from the best guys, and learning to race Flanders and Roubaix, is more beneficial than waiting and racing the under-23 versions of those races.”

Indeed, Simmons’s quick move stands in contrast to the pathway that American riders have taken to the WorldTour in recent years. Under-23 development squads such as Hagens Berman Axeon and UCI Pro Continental teams like Rally-UHC have often provided a stepping stone for riders exiting the junior ranks.

Oftentimes American WorldTour riders have made their debut in the big leagues at age 21 or 22. Tejay van Garderen, for example, made his WorldTour debut at age 21 after riding for Rabobank’s development squad; Lawson Craddock raced three seasons with Bontrager-Livestrong before entering the WorldTour at age 21.

Most recently, Brandon McNulty inked a WorldTour contract with UAE-Team Emirates after racing for Rally-UHC for two seasons. McNulty is 21.

Simmons was headed on a trajectory toward the WorldTour even before his world championship victory. In March he became the first American to win the junior edition of Gent-Wevelgem. Over the summer, he attended a training camp with WorldTour squad Bora-Hansgrohe.

Then, Simmons went on a tear in late summer, winning races in Switzerland and Belgium. Those victories were a sign that the American was on stellar form heading into the UCI world championships.

On a rainy day in Yorkshire, Simmons attacked out of the group with 33km remaining, and then rode solo to victory.

Simmons said it was the racing schedule that helped convince him to sign with Trek-Segafredo. In addition to the heavy classics, he said he may also race Dirty Kanza and the Leadville 100.

“They have a lot of faith in developing me and are going to let me race some of the biggest stuff right away,” Simmons said.  “I wanted to go to a Classics team. You look at what they’ve done with [Fabian] Cancellara and [John] Degenkolb. They’ve won the big races.”

Simmons said he spoke with his coaches and family before making the decision.

“Obviously there’s risk, but I think there’s a risk in waiting, too,” he said. “Americans in the past haven’t been super successful in the Classics, so doing what they’ve always done might not be the best idea. I have to try a different route.”