Aevolo caps inaugural season with Tour of Alberta invitation

Among the teams invited to this year's Tour of Alberta in September is first-year development team Aevolo, a US Continental squad whose mission is to help fill a void for young up-and-coming riders.

"There's only one dedicated under-23 trade team in the States, and it seems like there should be more," said team director Mike Creed. "I really like the concept of the team. If it was some other division 3 team trying to be the best division 3 team in the world and said in some statement that they want to race the Tour de France in seven years, then I probably wouldn't have gone for it.

"But with this one, it's very genuine, and the whole point is just to help kids in that transition period, so when they go to a pro team out of this one they already know everything they need to know, and that director that hires one of these riders isn't going to have to teach them almost anything."

Aevolo has made an almost instant impact on the North American racing, with the riders adopting Creed's aggressive style and bringing home some early results. The 10-man roster includes six US riders, two Canadians, a Spaniard and one rider from Mexico. Half of the riders are just 19 years old.

Aevolo is organised differently than many cycling teams, with the current three-year deal financed by a collective donor model rather than the traditional title sponsor, according to the team's website.

"All riders manage school or other educational obligations alongside training and racing, creating a student-athlete approach that emphasizes a commitment to intellectual curiosity and broader human development that far outlasts an athletic career," according to a statement on the team website.

Gage Hecht, a Colorado native who has benefited from Creed's guidance, took the criterium win at the Redlands Bicycle Classic earlier this year and finished second behind Neilson Powless at the US under-23 road race. The 19-year-old is coming off a successful junior racing run and is in the pipeline toward a possible pro career.

"This is a great opportunity to get my feet wet in my first year of the U23s, and I've had a great time this year," Hecht said. "It's been a great experience, and I'd love to see the program keep going and help guys like me kind of get ready for a career in cycling."

Hecht does know that he likely wouldn't be racing at his current level if not for the opportunity this season at Aevolo.

"We probably wouldn't be racing this category in [the Cascade Cycling Classic last month in Bend]," he said. "I probably wouldn't have done Gila or Redlands or any of those big races this year."

Those experiences have already paid off for Hecht and his teammates, and not just in the results they accumulated. It's also about the little things that successful cyclists need to know.

"I think our first races we were kind of like, ‘Where do we need to stand,' and we didn't even know where we expected ourselves to be in the pack," Hecht said. "I think at this point we've gotten a little bit more courage and confidence in ourselves and our abilities. It's exactly what you want."

Creed said that's what he wants for the team's legacy: that Aevolo riders who move up the ladder will be "set and forget" for their new teams.

"That there's a certain amount of ease that they can have because they don't have to teach them anything," Creed said.

Although results in the team's first season were not a top priority, they are an indication of how the team is progressing. Creed said the inaugural team has already surpassed expectations.

"I haven't seen an exact list somewhere, but I know I wrote down at the start of the year how many top 10s and top fives in NRC races in GC," Creed said. "I think we went over that pretty quick. We were really relevant at the under-23 championships, which was nice. I'm pretty pumped with it."

On the team's website, Creed says he'll know the first season was a success if Aevolo is viewed as a program worth going to, an attractive team for other riders, and that people know Aevolo runs a good program.

"It's hard at first, because the team doesn't exist," Creed said of building a team. "You're trying to hire people for a thing that doesn't exist yet. It was a lot harder than at SmartStop, because at least SmartStop existed, and this didn't.

"So to try and convince riders that they should come to this team and it's a good step for them, versus maybe an established division 3 team that just needs them for age restrictions or whatever, so to have that kind of culture and credibility within the pack, I feel like it's taken awhile, but we're getting there."

The team is set financially for two more seasons, and Creed says he hopes to grow the quality of the team rather than the size. The idea is to get very good at accomplishing the current goals, rather than changing the goals.

"We're on a three-year deal now, but the idea isn't to be bigger and better, but just better," he said. "I don't want to all of the sudden have 17 riders on the roster and a bus. We make things incrementally better, and as far as having more equipment and better race schedules and stuff, that's what we'll try and do, but as far as trying to make ourselves a bigger team, I don't think we have much interest. More quality."

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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.