Introducing: Cole Kessler

Cole Kessler racing the junior time trial at the 2021 Road World Championships in Belgium
Cole Kessler racing the junior time trial at the 2021 Road World Championships in Belgium (Image credit: Dirk Waem/Belga/AFP via Getty Images)

In recent years, the California-based LUX Cycling (opens in new tab) junior development team has grown to become arguably the main pathway to the pros for junior riders in the USA. Notable names to pass through on their way to the WorldTour in recent seasons have included Trek-Segafredo's Quinn Simmons, UAE Team Emirates' Brandon McNulty, and Team DSM's Kevin Vermaerke.

Next season, the team will supply Makayla MacPherson and junior Worlds silver medallist Kaia Schmid to women's pro team Human Powered Health, while fellow teenager Cole Kessler graduates to the men's Continental ranks with Israel Start-Up Nation's feeder squad, Israel Cycling Academy. 

With LUX enjoying an established reputation for developing talented riders, tracking their alumni is a must if you want to find next big thing in US cycling.

Kessler, an 18-year-old UCLA student who only started racing bikes five years ago, is making the jump after just one real season of racing on the road bike, having switched from mountain bikes.

That season – the year just gone – has seen him win his national time trial title, a stage and take second overall at the Ronde des Valées, and make his Worlds debut in Belgium.

Cyclingnews caught up with Kessler partway through the ISN-ICA training camp in Tel Aviv earlier this month to find out more about him, the latest LUX graduate to hit European cycling.

Cyclingnews: So first things first – how did you start cycling?

Cole Kessler: I started on my mountain bike with my friend Adam from Switzerland. We just rode for fun and then I started taking it seriously a couple of years later when I joined the mountain bike team at our high school.

Then I went on the road bike to get better on the mountain bike, but I fell in love with the road bike, made the switch. This past season was my first real season on the road bike because COVID obviously ruined my first year as a junior, so my last year as a junior was my first real time racing the road bike.

CN: Was there someone you looked up to or a trigger to get started cycling?

CK: I mean I looked up to Froome. When the dream started for me was when I watched the Tour de France the last time Chris Froome won. Just the fans and everything, I imagined what the feeling would be like to win the Tour de France. That was when I started really pursuing cycling and wanting to be a professional racer. 

CN: You've moved from the LUX Development Team. Can you tell us more about that?

CK: LUX was the junior team in America that gets you over to Europe and gets you that experience you need to make the move to become a pro cyclist. I can't be thankful enough to Roy Knickman [team manager] for taking a chance on me.

The team is based out of where I'm from – Newbury Park in the Thousand Oaks Area – and yeah, he took a chance on me. I had no real results, obviously, because I was new to the sport. I was really happy to have a successful last year as a junior and prove to him that I was worth the gamble.

CN: And you're the latest to graduate from the team, following some well-known names...

CK: LUX is definitely putting out some really good guys – McNulty, Luke Lamperti, Simmons, Vermaerke, Sean Quinn. It's a long list of guys who are really, really, really good, and I hope to one day be able to be on that list of some guys who are pretty good.

CN: You're the reigning US junior time trial champion. Is that your specialist discipline so far?

CK: It's early to see what I'm good at but I took a liking to time trialling because I like the aero part of cycling – the numbers and everything. I was working on my fit the whole year, trying to get more aero and put out the most power that I could. I found a good position but there's still a long way to go on that side.

I like climbing too, but I'm also a big guy at 195cm. So, I don't know how long I'll be able to keep the weight down but for now, we're doing alright. Maybe GC but we'll see. I'm not sure yet.

CN: It's your first camp with the team, both WorldTour and Continental teams integrated here in Israel. How has the experience been?

CK: The atmosphere here is amazing. I knew it was going to be a really good group of guys. I was looking for a team that had a good development program and some good racing, but I also wanted to feel like I was a real part of the team. Knowing that these guys are some of the best guys in the world and also really nice guys that I can bond with, it seemed like the obvious choice for me, for sure.

CN: I guess everyone is quite new during this first team camp for you, but who have you bonded with at this early stage?

CK: I've been roommates with Yuval [Ben Moshe] during the entire camp and I've bonded well with him. Actually, the entire Conti team I've made good friends with already. They're a really good group of guys, and I've also hung out with the WorldTour guys quite a bit. 

I've hung out with Chris a lot. At dinners, we've sat next to each other quite a lot and getting to talk to him, pick his brain, and get advice has just been a dream. Giacomo – world-class sprinter – it's cool to meet him. A long list. It's awesome. It's a dream.

CN: Obviously riders on WorldTour teams and their Continental feeder squads can switch for certain races throughout the year – was that a big draw for you?

CK: One of the big reasons I also chose the team was the integration between the Conti team and the WorldTour team. During this entire camp we've been hanging out with the WorldTour guys, getting to meet them and building that connection because we do a lot of races where we'd get to move up.

And then if those guys need more races, then they'll move down with us. It's a nice mix. We haven't gotten our schedules quite yet but I'm confident that I'll do some big races.

CN: It's only the start of your time in the setup but do you have a plan for your future?

CK: I have a two-year contract now. Then hopefully I can continue with the Conti team or make the step up to WorldTour. We'll see.

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Daniel Ostanek
Production editor

Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Prior to joining the team, he had written for most major publications in the cycling world, including CyclingWeekly, Rouleur, and CyclingTips.


Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France and the spring Classics, and has interviewed many of the sport's biggest stars, including Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Demi Vollering, and Anna van der Breggen.


As well as original reporting, news and feature writing, and production work, Daniel also runs The Leadout newsletter and oversees How to Watch guides throughout the season. His favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Volta a Portugal, and he rides a Colnago C40.