With three wins to his name by March 1, Travis McCabe is proving to be a profitable signing by UnitedHealthcare. The 27-year-old American closed out the Tour de Langkawi with his second stage win of the week to affirm he will be a man to watch for the bunch kick stages in 2017.
"Hindsight is 20/20, but I think I had a good chance of winning four stages here," McCabe told Cyclingnews and Eurosport post-victory. "Possibly even five if I had timed it a little better, but it is the beginning of the year."
In his two years with SmartStop and the 2016 season with Holowesko-Citadel, McCabe was mostly left to fend for himself, whereas at UnitedHealthcare, he benefits from a dedicated lead-out train captained by Greg Henderson.
"It is kind of the first time that I am in this leadership position, and I am still learning how to work with a lead-out train and time my sprint and how to be patient. I made a lot of mistakes this week, and all I can do is learn from them," he added.
For most riders, when they make mistakes it leads to them losing a race. For McCabe, he is making mistakes and still winning. That gives him confidence for the year ahead.
"I think the big thing is having guys like Henderson and [Adrian] Hegyvary, [Carlos] Alzate ... pretty much anyone who just believes in you and knows how to race and can calm me down a little bit," said McCabe who also won a stage of the Herald Sun Tour in February. "I have been rooming with Henderson all week long, and he is teaching me how to break everything down and show me step by step what I am doing wrong and what I am doing right.
"There has been that steep learning curve so far but I am happy with the form that I am on right now, and it's only going to get better. I know what I am going to have to work on when I go home, too, which is great. It is a great start to the year."
The challenge for McCabe is to continue is his early-season success and consistency on home soil in April and May for his primary objectives of 2017.
"The next big race will be Tour of California, that is the one I am focusing on. We have some criteriums and Tour of Gila, Redlands," he said, adding the US Nationals are also on the hit list. "I'll go home and have about a month to train, work on the sprint and build up the aerobic base again. Really, the focus is on California. I want to be going even better there, I want to take what I learned from this race and use it in the bigger races and try to get a win at the WorldTour level now."
Having overseen McCabe's quick transformation with UnitedHealthcare, directeur sportif Henrik Redant explained to Cyclingnews and Eurosport that he believes the American is the goods.
"He still has some work to do, so we'll see what happens and if he takes care of himself, he can become one of the fast guys for the hard races," he said. "Let's hope he proves it not just with me but somebody else. I don't care where, I want to see him prove it."