USA Pro Challenge stage 7 winner Alex Howes has signed with Slipstream's professional team, which currently rides under the Garmin-Sharp sponsorship, for the next three years, team manager Jonathan Vaughters confirmed Sunday in Denver.
"We re-signed him about a week ago," Vaughters told Cyclingnews following Howes' win during the final stage in Colorado. "It's a three-year deal with Alex. It just shows that he wanted to stay with the team and I wanted to stay with Alex. He's the only guy we have on a three-year deal: 2015, 2016 and 2017."
Vaughters told Cyclingnews earlier this month that his team would combine forces with the Cannondale squad and that all eight riders still under contract with the Italian team had been offered contracts with the new program, which Slipstream will manage. The eight are Moreno Moser, Elia Viviani, Alan Marangoni, Kristijan Koren, Davide Villella, Davide Formolo, Alberto Bettiol and Matej Mohoric.
Viviani told Cyclingnews last week that he would move to the new squad next year, But Vaughters said the Italian sprinter has yet to sign the team's contract offer. Formolo was the first rider to agree to his new contract.
Vaughters could not confirm whether any of the other Garmin riders competing at the USA Pro Challenge who have expiring contracts would be back next year. Those riders include Caleb Fairly, Phil Gaimon and Thomas Dekker. Both Dekker and Fairly told Cyclingnews they do not yet have deals yet for next year.
"[Janier] Acevedo is already on a two year deal," Vaughters said. "Gaimon has done an incredible job this year. He's not signed, but that doesn't mean he won't be. With Caleb, we're still looking at that and still in negotiation."
Asked specifically about Dekker's future, Vaughters said it was still not clear how many team spots he would have available next year, so he could not answer.
"It's all open," Vaughters said. "We have to see where we end up with the eight Cannondale riders if they're actually all coming over or not. So it's a little tricky in that regard with the merger, as any merger is – I'm sorry, marriage. Don't call it a merger."
Vaughters sees big things on Horizon for Howes
Although he had limited information to offer about the make-up of next year's team, Vaughters spoke effusively about Howes, the rider who also finished second on stages 1 and 2 this week and wore the yellow jersey during stage 3.
"Alex is one of the original six team 5280 Magazine team members from 2003," Vaughters said, recalling the origins of the current Slipstream program. "He's raced for me since he was 14-years-old. He's an original team member and Colorado native, and I'm sure the amount it means to him to have won today is pretty enormous."
The longtime team manager said Howes' performance this week could be traced back to having competed in his first Tour de France this past July, where he learned a lot and benefited from the added strength coming out of the French Grand Tour.
"He's slowly but surely developing into one of the world's top riders," Vaughters said. "He's not a guy like a Taylor Phinney, who explodes at 15 years old and everyone talks about the next youth wonder kid. Alex is a guy who every year gets two percent better, and another two percent and another two percent. But you do two percent a year from when you're 16 years old to when you're 26 years old, and it adds up.
"I expect him to be another two percent better next year," Vaughters continued. "He can be one of the better riders in sort of middle mountain races like Amstel Gold or Liege-Bastogne-Liege. He can be one of the better riders."
Howes also pegged the two classics, Amstel Gold and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, as races he could someday perform well in.
"My specialty has always been kind of the short, punchy climbs," Howes said. "The real long, drawn out stuff, as we saw on Monarch Mountain, I can't really hang. So a real dream for me is to win something in the Ardennes, like Liege or Amstel Gold. Whether or not that will happen, I don't know. But I like to think of myself above everything else, as just a racer.
"I don't have the engine that a lot of guys do," Howes continued. "But I know how to put myself in the right place. I don't know what that will get me in the end, but more often than not it puts me on the floor."