In just its second year in the US peloton, U23 development team Aevolo Cycling swept the board at the recent USA Cycling Road Championships in Hagerstown, Maryland.
Twenty-year-old Gage Hecht got things rolling for Aevolo in the July 26 U23 time trial, beating Matteo Jorgenson (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) and former Aevolo teammate Zeke Mostov (Hagens Berman Axeon) for the title.
Alex Hoehn took care of business the following day in the road race, winning alone ahead of Noah Granigan (CCB Foundation-Sicler) and Mostov once again. Hecht finished things off at the criterium on July 29, picking up the Aevolo banner after late crashes took out the team's top sprinters. Hecht beat Quinten Kirby (Marc Pro Cycling Team) and Scott McGill (Gateway Harley-Davidson) into second and third, respectively.
"It was really, really cool,' team director Mike Creed told Cyclingnews.
"The time trial by Gage isn't surprising. Those are timed events, so you can kind of have a little bit of expectation for that," Creed said. "But in the road race, it wasn't the most selective of courses and I figured the guys would be pretty heavily marked, so I didn't put a lot of expectations on the guys in terms of results. I put expectations on the way they race, and hopefully one begets the other."
Hecht recently finished fifth in the US Pro time trial in Oakridge, Tennessee, setting the best mark of all the U23 riders in the race, so it was no surprise when he topped the field in Maryland. A bigger surprise came in the criterium on Sunday, when he had to shift from second-to-last man in the lead-out train to team sprinter. Like he did at the Boise Twilight Criterium earlier in the month, Hecht led from the front and held on for the win.
"There were probably about two-and-a-half to go when Imeh [Nsek] actually slid out," Creed said of the race's final laps. "He was the plan B sprinter. He was going to be sweeping for Mike [Hernandez] and he just took this turn a little tricky. Somewhat because of that then, on the last lap these guys got inside of Mike and basically crashed about 30 per cent of the pack.
"At that point Gage was already on the front doing the lead out, so I tried to tell him on the radio that he was now sprinting for the win," Creed said. "I don't really think he heard me, and I didn't really consider that we'd win the crit at that point. But Gage is Gage; when he won in Boise he did an amazing thing on a flat, four-corner crit, leading it out and still winning. While I should stop being surprised by Gage, he still finds ways to do it."
Hoehn's road race win on Friday was also a case of picking up the pieces after the original plan went awry. The 20-year-old, who rode for Elevate-KHS last year, made it into a move of about nine riders that formed with around 60km to go. Aevolo originally had two riders in the move, but one of them got tailed off, leaving Hoehn as the lone Aevolo rider in the breakaway.
"On the surface of it, it wasn't great for us, and I wasn't very comfortable with the situation" Creed said. "But I also knew with Alex up there and being able to sit on and have the group realize this is probably their best chance, so driving it really hard, I knew they were somewhat underestimating Alex, and I was OK with that."
Creed told Hoehn that he was going to have his Aevolo teammates take the front of the peloton and drive the bunch close to the break - within 20-30 seconds. Hoehn was to attack on a climb with 5km to go, and if he got a gap Creed would pull the Aevolo riders off the front.
"That's exactly what happened," Creed said, "so it worked out well."
Creed built the Aevolo team from scratch after the previous US Continental team he directed, Smart Stop, folded following the 2015 season. He spent a year coaching the US Olympic Committee Paracycling Team, and then went to work on Aevolo last year. He's seen a quick rise through the ranks on the domestic circuit in a short time.
"It's coming. It's coming," Creed said of the development program's development.
"You have to remember, too, that when I signed those kids last year a lot of them were 19 and 20, so it's just naturally following in the age progression. These kids are going to get exponentially better every year. So it's having excitement when they make those jumps, but also still being cautious and patient while they make those jumps and not getting carried away."