In a new feature the Cyclingnews team pick their rider of the day from the Tour of California. William Barta is the second rider to be chosen, and we will be selecting a rider after each stage.
William Barta (Axeon Hagens Berman) made it into the key breakaway of stage 2 at the Amgen Tour of California. Though he momentarily lost contact with the race leaders Ben King (Cannondale Pro Cycling) and Evan Huffman (Rally Cycling) late in the race due to a mechanical, he fought his way back before the final climb of the day.
Barta was dropped on the last climb but was rewarded with the Amgen Breakaway From Cancer Most Aggressive Rider Jersey for his efforts.
"The team plan was to get in the break today," Barta said. "In the beginning we had three of us in that big group and it came back. We just tried to be patient and watch for things to go. Eventually it went, and and I tried to ride hard all day, went until the last climb, got popped there and that was it."
Axeon director Axel Merckx prepares his young team well for the demands of the professional peloton and adjusts expectations accordingly. The impact can be seen in his team's performance year after year. In addition to Barta's ride on stage 2, Axeon's Ruben Guerreiro finished seventh in Sunday's sprint against big names like Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish.
"It's one of the main goals for the guys. It's the Tour of California, and for us it's super important but you can't forget that those guys are only young kids and they are only U23s," Merckx said. "It's tough out there, I'm pretty proud of those guys I gotta say."
William Barta is only 20 and in his second year of competition as a professional U23. Merckx's zen attitude has rubbed off on Barta, who rode a busy European spring campaign in March and April.
"You just have to remember it's just a bike race," Barta said about his mental preparation for the Tour of California. "I mean it's a little different when your family and friends are watching on TV, like my Dad and sister were here today. It's definitely a little bit more motivation to make a show."
Barta spent the early part of his season racing in Europe getting valuable experience and fitness that has paid off well for the Idaho native.
"At the start of the season we pretty much headed to Europe," Barta said. "We did a couple of stage races in Portugal then some races in Italy and Liege U23 which Logan won."
After returning from Europe, Barta trained at altitude in Boulder and then raced the Tour of the Gila, where he placed fifth in the Best Young Rider classification. Barta then joined his team at a beach house in California, where the Axeon crew put in the final preparation for this week's race.
Unbent by the pressure of a major professional race Barta and is Axeon teammates are ready to tackle the remainder of the week.
William Barta (Axeon Hagens Berman) enjoying his time on the podium collecting the most aggressive rider jersey (Getty Images)