Larry Warbasse may be the least known of the all the US riders in the WorldTour, but the 26-year-old is hoping to change that this week when he carries the general classification banner for IAM Cycling at the Tour of Utah.
"I guess I would consider myself a bit of a forgotten American because I mostly race in Europe, and it's been that way since I was an under-23 rider," Warbasse said at the pre-race press conference Sunday in Cedar City. "So it's really an awesome opportunity this week. I think I have great legs. I had a good result in the Tour of Poland and I hope I can follow it up here."
Warbasse first raced in Utah in 2010 when BMC was still a Pro Continental team. He returned in 2012 as a stagiaire for BMC after it jumped to the WorldTour level, and he was back at the race with BMC in 2013. Last year he moved to IAM Cycling, where he has been in a support role before placing seventh overall last month at the Tour de Pologne.
"It's cool because I've never really had a chance to be the outright leader of the team, so it's going to be a good opportunity this week," he said. "At most races I'm a supporting rider. So, yeah, this is really pretty much the first time.
"Also, we have Heinrich Haussler for the sprints. Hopefully he'll be healthy because he's got a little bit of a stomach problem now. As long as he's good we'll both lead the team – him for sprints and me for GC.
As a three-time veteran of the race, Warbasse knows what lies ahead this week, with numerous climbs approaching or passing 3,000 metres of elevation and a final two days that may be the toughest in US racing. But Warbasse appeared confident about his chances during Sunday's press conference and again when Cyclingnews spoke with him afterward.
"Ever since the Vuelta last year I think I've really stepped it up a level in terms of my climbing," he said. "If I'm able to climb with the best in the WorldTour I don't see why I can't climb with the best here.
"So I hope I'll be able to get a really good result in the overall, and on those last two stages maybe go for something in one of them."
The timing couldn't be better for Warbasse to pick off a top result, with IAM Cycling already announcing that it will not return for 2017. Warbasse and his teammates are all looking for jobs, and the Tour of Utah would be a good place show what they're worth.
"That's always disappointing, but I guess most of us have really looked past that," he said of the team's demise. "At this race the morale is great. Everyone's really excited, and as you can see if you watched the Tour de France, the team was racing awesome. They were aggressive everyday and doing a great job. So it's really cool and everyone is happy to be in the US and excited to be here. I think we're going to have a great Tour of Utah."
With motivation and morale in place, Warbasse now needs to find a ride for 2017. He said there's some interest, but noting's been locked down yet.
"I'm still looking and I hope I'll find a good WorldTour team," he said. "I'll do this and then the Vuelta, so I'll have plenty of opportunities to show myself."
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