Giant-Shimano announced today that it has signed 25-year-old American Carter Jones to a two-year contract. Jones, winner of the 2014 Tour of the Gila, rode with the UCI Continental Optum Pro Cycling team this year.
“It's been the goal for so many years, and now it's actually happening,” Jones told Cyclingnews. “You think about something and you try to mentally prepare for it, but when it actually happens it's like, 'whoa.' I've always thought that I'd be moving over to Europe and racing full time there, and now I'm actually making the steps and getting things in order. It's scary, but I'm definitely looking forward to it.”
Jones, a product of USA Cycling's development program, rode with Jelly Belly in 2010 before moving to Trek-Livestrong the following year. He rode for Bissell Pro Cycling in 2012 and 2013. Jones signed with Optum for this season, notching his first win in a National Race Calendar event at the Tour of the Gila (UCI 2.2).
Jones followed that win by finishing 11th overall at the Tour of California (2.HC), where he was the first GC contender to attack race leader Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) on the climb up Mt. Diablo. In August, Jones finished eighth overall at the USA Pro Challenge (2.HC) and seventh at the Tour of Utah (2.1).
The results obviously gained Giant-Shimano's attention, said Jones, who initially started talking with his new team at the California race after Optum director Jonas Carney made some introductions.
“Jonas has a really good connection there with one of the directors, Aike Visbeek, from Chad [Haga] last year and from the other teams that Aike worked for,” Jones said. “When a team signs a rider they want to talk with your director, so having that connection was huge. So Jonas made the introduction at California, and we've kind of kept in contact since then.”
Jones will join fellow US riders Chad Haga and Lawson Craddock on next year's Giant team, which will be sponsored by Alpecin. Both Haga and Craddock recently finished their neo-pro seasons with the team, and Jones said he was impressed by Giant's commitment to developing the young riders.
“Honestly, I couldn't think of another WorldTour team that would be a better fit for me personally,” he said. “You see it with Chad and Lawson, with Warren Barguil. They have a really good history with developing riders and investing in riders.
“My biggest thing was, we were talking race schedules for next year, and they're going to throw me into some big races and good races – really get my feet wet,” Jones said. “It's a lot of a team to say that, but you see with Lawson and Chad this year, they actually did it, big WorldTour races. These guys got a lot of experience under their belts this year, and it really showed at the end of the year.”
Both Haga and Craddock started the Vuelta a Espana, where Haga was a crucial contributor to John Degenkolb's sprint win during stage 4. Team coach Marc Reef said Giant views Jones as a talented climber who can support riders like Barguil and Tom Dumoulin in stage races while developing his own GC skills.
“Dumoulin at the end of the season this year has been spectacular,” Jones said of his future teammate. “And I was just watching the Vuelta with Barguil attacking in all the mountain stages, super aggressive. It's cool to see, and I'll have that guidance.
“Also, putting that pressure on me to perform is going to be good for me,” he said. “I'll need to be there at the end to support those guys. It's easy to hire someone to ride the first 50km. But can I be there at the end to help them when it actually matters? So that's the goal for next year, to learn the racing and get used to everything. There's so much improvement to be made just by gaining experience.”
Jones will head to the Netherlands next week for the team's first get together, a chance to meet with media and next year's teammates. The first training camp that will involve riding will take place in early January.