The 20-year-old American has tried to join decisive breakways several times during the last three weeks and appeared to be one of the strongest riders in the final seven rider group that held off the peloton into Monforte de Lemos.
However, Cort has already proven his sprinting speed and skills and Simmons could only accept defeat, with Rui Oliveira (UAE Team Emirates) also passing him.
“We made it to the finish and I just got beat in the sprint by someone stronger,” Simmons said. “It was hard, we were pretty much flat out from the start. Then we never got so much time, so we were racing until the final.”
Simmons appeared to be one of the strongest in the 24-rider attack that formed early. He went on the attack with 30 kilometres to go drop some of his rivals and improve his chances in the final of the stage.
“Some guys were playing weird tactics, so I decided the best thing to do was to get rid of them on the climb,” he explained. “Then we had a group of seven of us that were committed.”
The seven managed to hold off the chasing peloton, despite having just a 30-second lead. Team Bike Exchange and then Team DSM both went deep but then blew up as they tried to chase for their sprinters Michael Matthews and Alberto Dainese.
Cort’s teammate Lawson Craddock played a key role in ensuring the break stayed away and that they finished together, so Cort could finish off the job and win the sprint. Simmons was aware of Cort’s speed and so tried to go early and long in the sprint.
“I know that with the speed of the pure sprinter guys, I can’t match it but I also know that I can sometimes win if I take it to a longer sprint,” he explained.
“I had to take that risk but unfortunately it didn’t pay off. Magnus proved how fast he is already twice in this race. The fastest guy won today.”
Trek-Segafredo snapped up Simmons as he rose rapidly and won the junior road race world title in Yorkshire in 2019, taking him straight to the WorldTour in 2020. However, his debut season was marked by controversy as he was suspended over social media posts that were deemed "divisive, incendiary, and detrimental" by his team.
Relations appeared strained as Simmons sat out the rescheduled 2020 Spring Classics and publicly stated that he did not deserve to be suspended. However, he has raced a full programme so far in 2021 and recently claimed his first professional victories with a stage and the overall at the Tour de Wallonie.
As a former Junior world champion he expects a lot from himself despite only being 20. He was able to understand that after the stage.
“For my first Grand Tour and being able to do that on stage 19 at just 20, it’s not disappointing,” he said, finding the positive side to his performance despite defeat.
Simmons has been selected for the USA team for this year’s Road Race World Championships in Flanders and will race with Joey Rosskopf (Rally Cycling), Craddock and Neilson Powless (EF Education-Nippo), Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) and Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates). He is also expected to ride Paris-Roubaix with Trek-Segadredo after last year’s race was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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