Eighteen-year-old Simmons will spend the holidays in Mallorca with his father, and then stay on the island in January before his expected professional debut at the Challenge Mallorca races at the end of the month. He will then move to Oudenaarde in Belgium for the spring Classics as he continues his fast track professional career, stepping up from world champion as a junior to a neo-pro in the WorldTour.
"It'll be hard but it's worth it. I've been given this opportunity to step up to WorldTour level, and it doesn't make sense to lose days of training to go back to the USA and then come back in the New Year," Simmons told Cyclingnews at the recent Trek-Segafredo training camp in Sicily. "The level is so high with the pros, so I need to be completely committed. That means Mallorca in January and then Oudenaarde before the Opening Weekend."
Simmons has already swapped the junior world champion's rainbow jersey he won in Yorkshire for the fluorescent Trek-Segafredo training kit as one chapter of his cycling career ands and a new one begins.
"I might wear it a final time in training, but from January 1 I'm no longer a junior world champion, I'm a WorldTour neo-pro and will have to earn my place in the peloton," he says, modesty only veiling his true ambition and drive.
"This time last year I was doing intervals and dreaming of a world title and the WorldTour, but they were just dreams. The Trek-Segafredo riders and others in the peloton were my idols. Soon I have to start racing with these guys and prove I belong here."
Simmons' 30-kilometre solo raid at the UCI Road World Championships Junior Road Race in Yorkshire was similar to Remco Evenepoel's victory 12 months previously, with a similar feeling he was riding a race all of his own when he attacked where he had planned and announced to friends with 30km to go.
The parallels with the precocious Belgian were underlined post-race when it was announced he would be skipping the U23 ranks and heading straight for the WorldTour with Trek-Segafredo.
Moving on up
He is missing time as a U23 like a US ball sport prodigy missing college. It was a decision Greg LeMond, who also turned professional in Europe at a tender age, applauded.
"I'm not too much into US sports, but I think Kobe and LeBron did the same in the NBA and I think they turned out pretty good," Simmons points out.
"Peter Sagan did something similar and was winning stages at the Tour of California when he was really young. As Greg LeMond said, if you're physically ready and mentally want to be there, there's no reason to wait. It's risky to sit at home and wait two years and do 40 days of racing at a lower level," he said.
"I don’t know if it sounds cocky, but I achieved everything I wanted in the juniors and I'm really looking forward to learning through pain. I think that's better scenario than going to under 23 and winning a load of races. All the people at Trek-Segafredo are now my mentors and that's pretty good class room to be in."
Simmons showed his huge ability and physical maturity with victory at the junior Gent-Wevelgem. He went on to win more than 10 races in Europe, each more emphatically than the last.
"Physically, there's not that much difference between me and an average pro; anyone who rides their bike a lot can ride hard for six hours," Simmons suggests.
"The real difference is that I've got to relearn everything: the tactics and positioning and learn to read the finale of the big races. 250km is a lot of kilometres to make a mistake, so I believe that if I start to learn now, start to study the roads of Flanders and Roubaix, then by year two or three I'll already have a significant advantage on riders my age."
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