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What do the cobblestone lanes of northern France and the gravel backroads of eastern Kansas have in common?
Both roadways are firmly in the sights of Quinn Simmons as he plots his 2020 racing program.
Simmons, the reigning junior world road race champion, told VeloNews that Paris-Roubaix and the Dirty Kanza 200 are among the events on his tentative 2020 racing schedule with WorldTour squad Trek-Segafredo.
Simmons will make his debut with the WorldTour squad at the four Challenge Vuelta Ciclista a Mallorca races in early January before racing Strade-Bianche in early March as he builds to the cobblestone classics.
“I know I’ve worked really hard to be here, but that doesn’t really matter anymore, because I’m restarting back at the bottom and trying to prove that I belong in [the WorldTour],” Simmons said. “If I can learn and get as much out of these races as I can that will be an ideal situation.”
Indeed Simmons slots into a reshaped Trek-Segafredo classics squad that will again try to challenge perennial favorites Deceuninck-Quick Step, Bora-Hansgrohe, and Jumbo-Visma at the heavy classics in March and April. The team’s longtime leader John Degenkolb departed for Lotto-Soudal after 2019, opening the door for younger talent to rise.
Jasper Stuyven and reigning world champion Mads Pedersen will likely be the team’s stars for Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix. Simmons, who won the junior edition of Gent-Wevelgem in 2019, hopes to contribute to the squad’s efforts.
At the moment he is not slated to race Flanders, however he is on the team’s squads for Gent-Wevelgem and Roubaix.
“If I can be there in the final to help Jasper and Mads that would be great,” Simmons said.
Simmons bypassed the Under-23 ranks to instead step directly into the WorldTour, following the same route as Belgian star Remco Evenepoel, who joined Deceuninck-Quick Step shortly after winning the junior world title in 2018. While Evenepoel scored major results in his first pro season — he won the Clasica San Sebastien as well as the European time trial title — Simmons has more modest goals.
“Physically I’m pretty close to where I need to be, and the biggest adjustment will be learning to race these races, and how to conserve energy for six hours and be smart and knowing the roads,” he said. “I also will need to learn how to manage such a long season.”
The races on Simmons’s calendar are a mix of WorldTour and UCI Europe Tour events, and appear custom fit for helping him adjust to the step up in speed and length. After racing in Mallorca he will complete the Etoile de Bessèges stage race in France; after the classics he is slated to compete in the Tour of Hungary in May and then the BinckBank Tour in August.
This schedule has a gap in road races in late May and June, and Simmons intends to return to the United States to participate in races on dirt. The May 30 Dirty Kanza 200 is on Simmons’s list, and he tentatively also hopes to participate in the Whiskey Off-Road and USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships.
Simmons was the junior mountain bike national champion in 2018; he also finished second at the Leadville Trail 100 MTB in 2019.
“Leadville  overlaps with Binckbank Tour, so it’s not on my list this year,” Simmons said. “Kanza is for sure on my schedule right now and I think the team fully supports me wanting to do it.”
The alternative racing opportunities places Simmons on the shortlist of favorites to win gravel cycling’s biggest event. Four WorldTour riders participated in the 2019 edition of the race and were famously thwarted by winner Colin Strickland, a gravel specialist with a background in fixed-gear criterium racing.
The 200-mile off-road effort could cater to Simmons’s powerful riding style. During his runner-up ride at Leadville Simmons was forced to ride by himself for much of the day after suffering an early flat tire.
The 2020 Olympics present another enticing racing opportunity for Simmons, however he acknowledged the challenges standing in the way of his qualification. The U.S. has just two spots for male road racers for the games, and the U.S. federation’s coaches may bypass him for an older, more experienced rider for this Olympic cycle.
“My schedule fits really well with going,” Simmons said. “Now I just need to prove to the selection committee that I can do it.”
Roubaix, Kanza, and Tokyo — now that would be quite the first year in the WorldTour.