Two years later, the 24-year-old Boise native scored a deal that lands him at his dream team alongside friends, former teammates, and celebrated countrymen, and he couldn’t be happier.
“Ever since I turned pro I thought that EF seemed like a super team to be on,” Barta told VeloNews. “As soon as it started to look pretty uncertain with CCC, I think EF was one of the top teams I was wanting to go to.”
The 2021 season will see Barta trade the bright orange of the now-shuttered CCC Team for the equally-vivid pinks and purples of EF Pro Cycling. After spending two years with CCC Team, which was bought out by Circus-Wanty Gobert earlier this year, Barta should settle in fast at the American squad.
The Idahoan will link up with three of his former Hagens Berman Axeon teammates at EF Pro Cycling. During his three-year stint at Axel Merckx’s talent-factory, Barta raced alongside Logan Owen, Nielson Powless, and Ruben Guerreiro, and he’s set to be sharing a wheel with them again in 2021.
“I’ll have three guys that I was actually teammates with, and then there’s a few more who were on Axel’s team before I was,” Barta said in a telephone call Monday. “We were all on the team at the same time together and we all raced with each other, so it’s quite fun. They’re guys I feel really comfortable with and enjoy being around.”
The friendly faces don’t end there. Barta will return to the tutelage of coach Nate Wilson, who formerly acted as U23 program director at USA Cycling before joining EF Pro Cycling’s performance team at the close of last season.
It all makes for a very comfortable introduction to Barta’s second WorldTour team. However, having come to within one second of scoring an against-the-odds stage win at the Ézaro time trial of the Vuelta a España, the 24-year-old is hoping to keep his foot firmly on the accelerator in the new year.
“I would like to grow into a stage racer, and I think EF is a great place to do it because you have some really great riders to learn from,” he said. “I would like to be one of the last men to help them in the big GC races. I’d like to do some of the big one week races and obviously a grand tour next year to really start working toward that.”
With grand tour supremo Rigoberto Urán and American veteran Tejay van Garderen balancing out the swathe of boyish young faces on the EF Pro Cycling roster in 2021, Barta will benefit from the guidance of riders with nearly 20 grand tours in their legs.
Barta said he’d long looked up to the likes of van Garderen and fellow US stalwart Alex Howes, and so the prospect of riding alongside them next season makes the move to EF Pro Cycling that bit sweeter.
“Those are guys I always like to chat with, in the races,” he said. “Obviously we have a lot in common with being American and talking about stuff going on back home, but also they’ve been really successful. I’m really looking forward to getting their input and having them to learn from.”
Barta is spending the off-season with his girlfriend under the low sun of Oslo, Norway, but life couldn’t be any brighter right now.