The 29-year-old American, who is best known for a 2017 season that included two stage wins at the Tour of California as well as overall wins at the Tour of the Gila and Tour of Alberta, told Cyclingnews earlier this week that the rigours of travel and his plans to start a family drove his decision to retire following the 2.HC race.
"By a lot of accounts it seems too soon," Huffman said. "When I first told my coach, he was very surprised. He said, 'Well, physiologically there's still more to give and maybe room to improve.' But for me, it was just getting burned out on the lifestyle, travelling so much.
"Getting married two years ago changed a lot for me," he said. "I still enjoy riding my bike and racing. That's kind of stayed the same, maybe a little less than when I first started, but then I have a lot more things outside of cycling that I enjoy more. It's always been a balance and a sacrifice, and I got to the point where I felt like I was sacrificing things that meant more to me to keep cycling, mainly time at home with friends and family. So it's time to make a change."
And Huffman has some big changes in mind. He and his wife are planning to start a family through the foster-to-adopt program.
"We decided in April that we for sure were going to go that route, so at this point we're fully certified to do it, so we're just holding off accepting placement until the middle of September so I can have a little buffer time to just enjoy offseason or retirement," Huffman said.
"That's a big part of it. It's been hard already the last year or two, being away from home so much, but now with a baby or a kid at home, it would be another level for sure."
Evan Huffman in yellow at the 2017 Tour of Alberta (Jonathan Devich)
Reflecting on more than a decade of racing
Huffman started his racing career while studying at Cal Poly University, then joined the elite amateur California Giant Berry-Specialized team, winning the U23 US time trial championship in 2012 as well as the Tour of the Gila time trial.
He moved to the WorldTour with Astana in 2013 and 2014, but the team raced him very little in those years, with just 48 days in 2013 and 42 days in 2014. But Huffman said he has no regrets about making the jump to the team from Kazakhstan.
"Hindsight is 20/20 as they say. I think in the moment it was such an incredible opportunity that it would have been worse the other way around. If I had gone to a domestic Continental team, we'd be sitting here wondering what it would have been like, 'What if I had gone to the WorldTour. Maybe you'd be at the Tour de France right now.'
"You could say in a lot of ways it didn't work out because I came back to a Continental team for two years, but I think that experience really shaped a lot of who I am as a rider and as a person too," he said. "Having the opportunity to be a part of such an international program – even cycling aside – was a pretty big life experience, and I think it was pretty beneficial for me. I don't have any regrets. I think going to the team was a good move for me."
Huffman moved back to the Continental level in 2015 with Team SmartStop, then jumped to Rally the following season.
He flourished with Rally in 2016, winning the mountains jersey at the Tour of California and finishing third overall at the Tour of Alberta. But 2017 proved to be Huffman's most productive. He won the individual time trial at the Tour of the Gila and hung on during the Gila Monster stage to claim the overall victory.
Huffman then went to the Tour of California on one of two Continental teams in the WorldTour race and took two stage wins, finishing as runner-up in both the mountains and sprint classifications. He took another time trial win at the Cascade Cycling Classic, then won a stage and the overall at the Tour of Alberta.
"I think really that entire season was a standout to me," Huffman said. "Being still at the Continental level for our team, and we were very much the underdogs, and we over-performed that year a lot. It was really cool that in both of those stages I won at California, Rob [Britton] was in the break with me, and then I was able to help him win the GC at Utah that same year.
"All that together made it extra special, even more so than the actual results from two stages on paper. I think that would be my highlight."
Evan Huffman waits for the start of a stage at the 2018 Tour of Utah (Jonathan Devich)
Huffman said he's not sure what to expect Sunday afternoon when he crosses the race finish line for the final time as a pro. The emotions haven't quite hit yet.
"In a lot of ways it is a huge deal," he admitted. "I've been racing full time for 11 years, since I was 19, so it's a long time and a big deal, but at the same time it's just another race. Everyone has been telling me to take time to appreciate it and soak it in, but it doesn't feel that different so far – for better or worse.
Asked what he wanted people to remember about his cycling career, Huffman said he hoped they'd look beyond his results.
"I guess the whole thing with legacies is that it's mostly out of your control," he said. "People will remember you for what they want and not what you want them to. I hope people remember me for the person I am and the way I raced than the actual results on a page.
"It's been kind of humbling the last week or two, people's response to me retiring. They've said a lot of nice and encouraging things," Huffman said. "I hope people remember me as a good teammate and a good person, someone who encouraged others as well and supported other people – and won a few bike races along the way."
Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He 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.
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