Slipstream Sports announced today that Alex Howes has signed a two-year contract extension with the team that will take him through the end of 2019. Racing as Cannondale-Drapac this year, the Slipstream-owned US WorldTour team will race as EF Education First-Drapac next year. Howes has raced for Slipstream teams since 2007.
"Alex wanted to stay, and I wanted Alex to say," said Slipstream General Manager Jonathan Vaughters. "It was as simple as that. He's been with us his entire career except for one season where I farmed him out to a French team to toughen him up a bit. He's grown up with us and has grown into the heart of this team."
Howes, who first raced for Slipstream in 2007 before moving to La Pomme Marseille in 2008, came up through the team's development system and signed with the WorldTour outfit in 2012. Howes won a stage of the USA Pro Classic in 2014 and this year added four more UCI wins, including two stages at the Cascade Cycling Classic with the US National team, a stage at the Colorado Classic and one at the Tour of Alberta.
The Colorado native said he feels at home at the Colorado-based team.
"Being based out of Colorado, Slipstream Sports has always my home team," Howes said. "Over the years, it has become more than just a team. It really is a family, and I have invested a lot emotionally in the team over the years. The team's focus on producing results through grit and and creativity echoes my personal racing style.
"I think my stage seven win at the USPRO Challenge in 2014 is my proudest moment in argyle," Howes said. "The way the whole team rode their hearts out for me and then to pull it off in front of a hometown crowd was truly spectacular.
"This year, my hands down (or is it hands up?) favorite moment was my win in Breckenridge at the Colorado Classic," Howes said. "It was the queen stage and the wildest crowd I've seen. In the coming years, I would like to head back to the Tour de France, find the top step of the US Nationals podium and find that big result in the one-day classics I know I'm capable of achieving. And I plan to have fun along the whole journey."
Howes is one of 16 riders currently signed to Slipstream's roster for next year after what has been a tumultuous fall for the team. The team has lost at least 11 riders to retirements and transfers, while bringing on just four new riders so far. The fates of Howes' teammates Lawson Craddock, Nathan Brown, William Clarke and Thomas Scully have yet to be announced. Although many core riders will return, when all is said and done, the roster will look considerably different. Howes said he's looking forward to watching the team come together.
"When your teammates are simply your co-workers, you can never really give 100 per cent," said Howes. "When they are some of your best friends, you give everything and more. I don't know all the new riders yet, but I'm looking forward to showing them the ropes. I'm especially excited to see Logan Owen on board. He's a great guy with a ton of potential. I know he'll fit right in."
Slipstream's struggles to land a title sponsor to replace Cannondale delayed the team's roster activities, but with Education First on board the pace has picked up dramatically. Aside from providing him with job security, Howes lauded his the new team sponsors mission.
"I really believe in what EF is trying to accomplish," said Howes. "When I was 15, I traveled to Belgium to race cyclo-cross. That first trip to Europe at such an influential age really opened my eyes to the world beyond the US borders.
"I believe it is absolutely essential that we actively cultivate a knowledge and understanding of cultures beyond our own in order to be good global citizens. Without travel and the study of foreign ideals, we can never possess the empathy and understanding required to cooperate with our neighbors in order to make the world a better and safer place."