Cyclingnews will be introducing some of the fresh faces in the WorldTour peloton for 2013 in a series of articles over the next month. First up, Evan Huffman, 23, who joins Astana from the California Giant Berry-Specialized team. In 2010, Huffman decided to quit college and dedicate himself to his cycling career. By 2012, he was beating the top domestic professionals in time trials at the Merco Cycling Classic and Tour of the Gila. In June he won the U23 US time trial title. He signed with Astana later that year.
Cyclingnews: How did you get the contract with Astana?
Evan Huffman: It was mostly through Cal Giant and their relationship with Specialized. They [Specialized] wanted to see more Americans on the teams they sponsor. I’ve been in contact with them since last winter, and they’re the ones that helped me get that conversation started with Astana. They decided that I’m ready to move up, so it worked out for everyone.
CN: Which races best demonstrated your abilities to the team?
EH: I’m not sure, I did well at Tour of the Gila and Nationals, and I did some races in Europe with the national team – maybe the Giro Valle d’Aosta and Tour de l’Avenir. I didn’t have any big results, but I finished the races and I helped the team out a lot.
CN: How did you pick up bike racing?
EH: I did triathlons when I was really young, and a friend I knew from triathlon got me to do some bike races (in 2007) – just some local crits. It got me started, and after I did some more races I realized I liked that better, and I got into it more and more over time.
CN: Did you have any sport heroes when you were growing up?
EH: Not really, honestly. I never really looked up to any athletes in particular.
CN: Does the recent doping news make you apprehensive, or are you hopeful that the pro peloton is clean and you won’t have to face the kinds of decisions riders had to in the past?
EH: I’m hopeful that things are better now. It is a big jump up and I don’t know a lot about it, but I have some good friends at that level who I’m confident are clean and who are doing well. That’s an indicator to me that it’s certainly a lot better. My only option is to be optimistic I guess. I have no intention of ever doping. If it becomes a problem I’ll have to make a difficult decision, but I don’t think it will ever come to that.
CN: Do you have any mentors in the WorldTour that are helping you to prepare?
EH: Andrew Talansky has been really helpful to me. He was on Cal Giant a few years ago, we weren’t on the team at the same time, but he used to live in Northern California and we had a lot of mutual friends. He’s really reached out to me and has given me a lot of advice over the last season – how to deal with getting a contract and with racing and what kind of results I need to get. More recently about where I want to live, all the little stuff like that.
CN: And what about on Astana? Have you met your new teammates? You're the only native English speaker, right?
EH: We’ve already had two camps, I’ve been over and back once in November and once in December. There’s definitely a language barrier there, but everyone’s really friendly and there are enough guys that speak English that there’s always someone to talk to or someone who can translate. All the riders and staff have been really welcoming. I’m trying to learn Italian as well, which will be helpful. Luckily one of the good things about cycling is there isn’t much that needs to be said. There’s a universal language on the bike.
CN: Where are you going to be based?
EH: I’m going to be living in Girona with a lot of the other Americans and one teammate Tanel Kangert. I haven’t been there yet. I’m just going off other riders’ recommendations. I’ll be there on January 25 after the next team camp. I have a place to stay for now, but I’m still working out my long-term arrangements. I’ll probably get a place by myself. I did live in college for a couple years and did the whole roommate thing, so I think I’ll be a little more comfortable that way.
CN: Any races in particular you are looking forward to?
EH: I really, really want to do Tour of California. It depends more on if the organizers let our team in than if our team puts me in. They’ve already told me that if the team goes then I’m in for sure. Other than that, all the races are new to me, so it’s going to be a matter of doing everything I can and figuring it out as I go. I just want to try to do well in every race I do.
CN: Do you have any hobbies?
EH: Not really, I pretty much eat, sleep and breathe cycling all day, so I don’t really do a whole lot of other stuff.
CN: What is your first race with the team?
EH: My first race is February 26, the Giro del Friulli – I do a few races back to back in Italy then the Strade Bianchi in March. I’ve never raced on dirt roads, but I’ve been training a lot on them, so I’m pretty nervous and excited about it.