Logan Owen joined EF Education First as one of the most talented riders of his generation, having won the U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège at 21 and a stage of the Tour of Utah the year before while racing for Axeon Hagens Berman.
But four years into his development to the WorldTour level, the American finds himself without a contract for 2022, with few prospects and potentially the end of his once very promising career at the age of 26.
A ten-time national champion in cyclo-cross and junior road champion, Owen raced full 'cross campaigns before turning to the road, and as a junior was regularly battling closely for podiums against riders like Mathieu van der Poel and Quinten Hermans, and was just off the podium at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Louisville in 2013 behind Van der Poel, teammate Martijn Budding and Adam Toupalik of the Czech Republic.
On the road, Owen has not yet matched those results but focussed on being a solid support rider. He helped Tejay van Garderen to his second place at the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2019 and raced the Vuelta a España but a COVID-19 marred 2020 season and bad luck this year cost him a chance to prove his worth to the team.
"I had some injuries and some bad luck this year which was really not a good year to have that. The team were saying they were on the fence (with renewing) and it sounded like they wanted to keep me," Owen tells Cyclingnews.
"I was supposed to do the Giro d'Italia earlier in the year and then I had a little bit of a knee injury at some races that I was supposed to be leading at - some of the early one-day races, so my knee injury took me out of that. After that, I was starting to get healthy and starting to get really fit and I did Brabantse Pijl and had a really bad crash. That took me out of Tour of the Alps which is the lead-up race for the Giro, so the team took me out of the Giro."
Owen said he had discussions with the team that made it sound like they were interested in keeping him on, and only found out that his contract would not be renewed in September - and by that time, his options had dried up.
"I reached out to other WorldTour, Pro Continental and even Continental teams but there wasn't a lot of interest," Owen says. "By the time I actually had a reason to start reaching out to the lower-level teams it was a little too late. I reached out to Rally and some other teams like Alpecin and Wanty - I reached out to as many as I could but there wasn't a lot of interest which is kind of sad because I was starting to ride really well and starting to come into my own toward the end of the year."
Owen had a solid Benelux Tour in September, racing to 13th overall as the team's top finisher, just behind Kasper Asgreen. He said he feels like he still has more to give and does not want to see his career end now. He's considering going back to cyclo-cross as a last resort.
"I'm also still in touch with Qhubeka but I don't know what's happening there," Owen said. Doug Ryder has been given time by the UCI to rescue his WorldTour operation. "If they go forward then maybe I have an opportunity, maybe not - I don't know. I'm trying to keep my options open. I think we should know very soon.
"I'm still trying to make it work for the next season, whether it's cyclo-cross, gravel or road. I'd like to keep racing my bike because I think I have a lot to prove still.
"I've been reaching out to some people I know to see if there's anything I can do to get back into 'cross. I've always enjoyed 'cross a little more than road racing but road racing I think you can make a more solid career out of - not that I don't enjoy it, I still love road racing."
However, he won't be trying to race 'cross at his home Worlds because the mental blow of being out of contract has been difficult and the logistics of trying to move himself, his partner, two large dogs and two cats halfway around the world has been a nightmare.
"Mentally it has been hard to be this late in the season and not know what I'm doing next year," Owen says. "I took a little break like I normally would and then started to train again, but motivationally it's really hard to keep building back up."
On January 1, Owen will be without all of his Cannondale bikes and equipment, so racing 'cross would be impossible. "It'd be a tough thing to balance. I want to focus on trying to find something for next year. It's not easy to do everything at once."
If he doesn't get a contract, it would mean cycling might lose one of its brightest talents to the 'real world'.
"Maybe I'll just get a normal job or go back to school. There's a good nursing programme where I'm from, or I might do some coaching for cyclo-cross in the Seattle area where I'm from. To be honest, I haven't set a path yet for if [a contract] doesn't happen."
When asked what factors might have led to the team not keeping him on, Owen says he was told the sponsors wanted different nationalities represented in the team. "I was at the bottom of the list that got cut - there were a lot of people that got cut this year."
But he also admits that he made mistakes early in his time at the WorldTour level, thinking he could rely on his innate talent and eschew the obsessive attention to power data.
"I'm not saying I didn't work hard or train hard, but I didn't realize what it took to be pro. I had a really good second year, which is why they re-signed me. I had a good Dauphiné when Tejay got second overall and was a big part of helping him do that. That's where I started to show my abilities.
"I've never been a big power number guy, I know how to race - that's what I've been known to be able to do. In my second year, I showed I could do the power numbers as well and it came together and I was doing a really good job as a teammate. So I signed for two more years. I think I had an OK 2020 but that was all marred by COVID. It was a really tough time. At the end of this year, I started riding really well but then I started reaching out too late."
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.
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