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Editor’s note: To close out 2017, we named our 30th annual VeloNews awards in the November/December issue of VeloNews magazine.
Domestic racer/domestic team of the year: Evan Huffman and Rally Pro Cycling
Evan Huffman stood in the middle of Magic Mountain Parkway on the edge of Santa Clarita, California, with the far-off look of someone still processing his own accomplishment. “I can’t believe that we just did it,” he said over the boom of the race announcer. “It’s still just surreal.”
What Huffman did was leave behind a field of WorldTour teams, and some of the best riders in the world, to win a stage of the Amgen Tour of California. He would do it again two days later, putting two of seven stages in the back pocket of one rider on a domestic team in America’s biggest stage race.
It was indeed a surreal season. Huffman, who raced for two years with the Astana WorldTour team before returning to America and its plucky Rally program, was the standout rider within his standout team. He finished tied on points for the KOM competition in California, in addition to his two stage wins, and topped that with an overall victory and one more stage at the Tour of Alberta near the end of the season.
Huffman may have been the spearhead, but Rally had a deep bench. Canadian Rob Britton won the overall at the Tour of Utah, Eric Young won stages at the Tour of the Gila and Joe Martin, and Matteo Dal-Cin earned Canada’s national championship. Youngster Sepp Kuss climbed with the best on Mount Baldy in California and showed he has what it takes to ride at the top of the sport with a sixth overall at the Colorado Classic and second place, behind Huffman, in Alberta.
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Rally, a Continental-level squad in 2017, will make the jump to the Pro Continental ranks in 2018. That should help guarantee the team entry into major American races like the Tour of California (as if winning almost one-third of the stages this year wasn’t going to be enough) and the Colorado Classic. Success for smaller teams can be a double-edged sword, as richer programs swoop in to snag developing talent. But Rally successfully held on to many of its best riders for 2018, including Huffman.
No domestic rider was more successful on North America’s biggest stages than Huffman, and no domestic team proved more adept at overhauling WorldTour programs than Rally.