Holloway races Amsterdam Six Day

American sprinter revels in track roots

US Elite criterium champion Daniel Holloway could be hard to get in touch with this week; his schedule for the next five evenings is booked. The 27-year-old speedster from Morgan Hill, California, is competing with fellow American Guy East this week at the Amsterdam Six Day, which started Monday in the Netherlands.

The routine of European six-day racing is no stranger to Holloway, who started coming to Europe for the fall/winter track sessions in 2008 when he was 21 years old. Since that time, he's competed in more than 20 of the professional multi-day track events.

“I've got a few under my belt,” Holloway told Cyclingnews this week from Amsterdam. “I did my first six day in 2008 with Colby Pearce. Guy and I did four six days last year, so that was good. We showed pretty well to the promoters, so it kind of rolls over into the next season. They know we're consistent, safe riders and we're worth the contract.”

Although the Amsterdam race is currently the only six day on the schedule for Holloway and East, the pair is hoping to get more invitations following their ride in the Netherlands.

“Typically a lot of the promoters go to other events to see anything new and exciting coming up, but also to talk to all the riders and shake hands and everything else,” Holloway said. “So hopefully we'll have that opportunity to speak with those promoters, and when they show up and watch us race they see what they like and offer us a contract.”

The atmosphere at the Amsterdam race can be intense because of the relatively small venue that puts fans closer to the action, but Holloway said each and every venue on the six-day circuit has its own attractions.

“Every six day has its own energy and its own feel,” he said. “Amsterdam is one of the smaller six days. They do have on the infield, of course, dinner and drinking and stuff like that, so you get those kinds of fans. But it's not on the level as someplace like Berlin, where you get 15,000 to 20,000 people all there to watch a bike race with a lot of drinking. They get a lot more into it than at a smaller race.”

But the track in Copenhagen is Holloway's favorite for six-day racing.

“It's a bit more relaxed,” he said. “The promoters like to see the guys having fun, so that allows me to express my personality and things like that as far as dressing up in a Batman suit for the flying one laps. When it's not full-time serious, I can kind of go play and have a little fun. But just the energy in a place like Berlin when everybody is watching the bike race, they give out whistles and stuff, so it just gets extremely loud in there. They're all different and unique, and I love them all for different reasons.”

Having successfully ingratiated himself into the European six-day scene, Holloway now holds out hope that the discipline will catch on in the US. New indoor velodromes in the States are bringing that dream closer to reality.

“It's a crowd that's not being reached with track racing in the US,” he said. “But it's slowly, slowly gaining traction. I think as soon as we get a six day or multiple six days in the US, it will really take off. With that comes sponsorship dollars and people actually making money. So it's good for everybody if we're over here and getting some exposure, bringing American companies to Europe and kind of highlighting them and kind of vice versa. Hopefully we can bring a little bit of Europe back to the States and grow this.”

First full season as crit specialist brings success

Despite his previous success in criteriums – Holloway won the amateur national title in 2007, the pro title in 2010 with Bissell, and the amateur title again this year – he told Cyclingnews this is the first year he has spent an entire season focused on the hard and fast style of racing.

Holloway signed his first pro contract in 2009 with the Slipstream's development team. He moved to Bissell in 2010, followed by stints with Kelly Benefit Strategies, Team Raleigh in the UK, and Amore & Vita in Italy for part of last year. He said his main targets in all of those years were the big attention-grabbing UCI road races.

“We targeted those races as the ones to perform in to get the most exposure to WorldTour teams,” he said. “That kind of schedule didn't line itself up with being good at the criteriums. My mindset at the time was that I just had to get through a criterium without crashing or having anything dumb happen that would prevent me from racing California or Philadelphia or other road races.”

That mindset changed when he signed for 2014 with Athlete Octane, a criterium-focused domestic elite team based out of California. Throughout USA Cycling's National Criterium Calendar this year, Holloway proved to be a major thorn in the side of UnitedHealthcare, the US-based Pro Continental team that has dominated the series since its inception two years ago.

“Since this was my first year doing the crits, I didn't know what to expect,” Holloway said. “In the past, I had kind of tuned into the live feed and I could see [UnitedHealthcare was] just riding guys off their wheel. So I was a little nervous going into it without knowing what the actual speeds were. It looks different on video than it is in person, etc., etc. But I just had good legs, and it gave me confidence to fight for the back of the [UnitedHealthcare] train and establish my position there.”

Holloway credited his team with doing the work that provided him the opportunity to challenge UnitedHealthcare sprinters like Ken Hanson and Luke Keough. The team fended off challenges to Holloway's spot behind the UnitedHealthcare lead-out train, he said, allowing Holloway to remain fresh for the finale.

“If you watch the videos, you can see everybody behind the train is just fighting each other, fighting each other, just getting way tired,” Holloway said. “Then as soon as UHC does its acceleration, everybody is tired behind them and the gap opens. The trick is being just as fresh as Ken Hanson or Luke Keough, who are just sitting there. That's the position you have to be in if you want to have a fighting chance. The guys did a great job of sacrificing their chances for a top 10 so I could have a chance to win.”

Holloway had plenty of chances to win in 2014. He beat UnitedHealthcare's vaunted Blue Train at the TD Mayor's Cup in Boston and took16 wins throughout the year, some of those at the USA Crits Speedweek. He notched eight third-place finishes and was second 10 times, often ruining UnitedHealthcare's chances of sweeping the podium, which they did frequently the year before.

“You could see a lot of times those guys didn't have time to do that full two-person salute,” he said. “Or they could only get one hand off the bars because they've never really had to sprint through the line. And this year I was putting a lot of pressure on them to actually finish their sprints. It was great fun, and that's the bike racing I like to be a part of.”

As for his 2015 plans, Holloway said he doesn't have anything “in ink” yet, but he did enjoy the atmosphere and environment on Athlete Octane.

“Chad [Hartley] is working on building the program we have now,” Holloway said. “I really feel at home there with the vibe. I've input some of my ideas about how to make the team better as a team, and that's not just as bike racers, but as a whole, including what we do off the bike. I'm excited for things we've been talking about, and if everything comes through it's going to be a really fun year next year. I'm really looking forward to that.”

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