No one has ever accused 2014 National Racing Calendar winner Travis McCabe of being slow, but the 26-year-old from Tuscon, Arizona is focusing this season on increasing his top-end speed for the field sprints.
In his two seasons with Team SmartStop, McCabe proved himself to be a talented all-rounder as there were no shortage of fastmen on the team directed by Mike Creed. But McCabe moved to Holowesko-Citadel [formerly Hincapie Racing] this year, and director Thomas Craven said he and the team wanted to emphasize pure sprinting with their talented new recruit.
“Oh definitely, and that’s kind of how it’s been,” McCabe told Cyclingnews when asked about his new focus. “I’ve been really working on that top-end speed and being fresh for the finish. I think I’ve been able to do that and I’ve shown it so far.”
McCabe debuted with Holowesko-Citael in January at the Tour de San Luis, and he wasted little time letting Craven know that the director had made a good decision in bringing him on board.
During the stage 3 field sprint behind solo winner Peter Koning (Drapac), McCabe finished second to Etixx-QuickStep’s Fernando Gaviria and just ahead of world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff). It was an eye-opening result.
“Oh, man, that was pretty awesome. That was really cool,” he said. “It was a great way to start the season. Those races are my type of races. It was a 15-minute climb with a select group coming over it.
“Toward the end I was just staying toward the front and being prepared for the sprint. I had the snap at the end so it was good. I was really, really happy with that podium. That was a really big one for me.”
McCabe started the 2016 US domestic schedule by taking the first race of USA Cycling’s 2016 Pro Road Tour when he won the Sunny King Criterium last weekend in Anniston, Alabama.
“I’m really excited with that win in Anniston,” he said. “It was a pretty decisive sprint and it shows I have that speed in the legs now. So now it’s just continuing to collect those wins and podiums.”
McCabe collected another podium on Wednesday, finishing third in the opening stage of the Redlands Bicycle Classic. The stage result was almost a replica of 2015, when Sebastian Haedo (Team Jamis) beat him into second by several bike lengths. This year Haedo’s teammate Ruben Companioni soloed in for the win, but Haedo once again beat McCabe in a sprint finish to grab second. McCabe ended up third.
“It was a really fast finish compared with last year; the speeds were a lot higher coming into the finish,” he said. “Last year I made the mistake of jumping too early, and this year I made the mistake of jumping too late. Haedo went pretty much in the same spot where I went last year and then held it up and over.
“He got a pretty good gap and by the time I responded it was too late,” McCabe said. “But third’s not bad. It was a hot day. It was fast day. Everyone kept it upright so we have some positives out of it. Also I think with the races in Anniston this weekend we’re still feeling that a little bit.”
McCabe will have several more chances for wins and podiums this week at Redlands and during the rest of the 2016 Pro Road Tour, but his main target for the season is the Amgen Tour of California.
The race promises to be a sprint spectacle, with Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Gaviria, Sagan and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) expected on the start line. It should provide a Grand Tour level of sprint battles and a world-class test for McCabe, who said he wants to figure into the sprint finishes.
“I hope so, yeah,” he said. “I mean that’s what I’m going for. California is definitely the main focus for me. I think the team that we have also is a really strong and powerful team. And I think with the guys and the way we race, once we connect everything together I think we’re going to be a hard team to beat. So I’m really looking forward to California and giving it a go against the bigger WorldTour guys.”