Q&A with Junior World Champion and neo-pro Quinn Simmons
At just 18 years of age, Quinn Simmons has already established himself as one of the most exciting American prospects in road cycling.
In 2019 after a prolific journey in mountain biking, the Durango, Colorado native turned his focus exclusively to road cycling and took the Junior scene by storm. Amongst his list of accolades, he won the US Junior National time trial title, became the first American to win the Junior Men’s race at Gent-Wevelgem, and soloed to an impressive victory in the World Championships Junior road race in Yorkshire.
This year Simmons will make the jump to pro-cycling’s super echelon with Trek-Segafredo after deciding to bypass U23 and go straight from Junior into the WorldTour.
The Junior Road World Champion will make his neo-pro debut at the end of January in Mallorca and is scheduled to race Paris-Roubaix, his first Monument, in April.
TFS: You decided to skip the U-23 ranks and make the unusual jump from junior to World Tour. How did that decision come about?
I’ll be gaining experience in the bigger races earlier. It made more sense as someday hopefully, I’ll be racing at the top end of the classics, and to continue as U-23 would have been nice, but I think learning from the best guys in the world is the way to become one of the best guys in the world.
TFS: You received a lot of interest from several WT teams even before winning the World Championship. What made you decide to join Trek-Segafredo?
Well, the first thing that got me really interested in the team was I really liked the idea of racing for an American team and American bike company. I think that’s a cool factor. And then also there’s a real structure around the classics team with guys like Jasper (Stuyven) and Mads (Pedersen) to learn from. I think it’s a good place to grow and it’s also a team I could see myself staying in long term. I think that was the biggest deciding factor for me.
TFS: Your plan to conquer the rainbow stripes began to take shape when the course for Yorkshire 2019 was announced. You told some friends you would win that race and how you would do it. Tell us about that episode.
The night before Innsbruck Worlds, they announced the course for Yorkshire 2019. I immediately looked up the circuit. I Googled the profile of the finishing climb and saw that we lapped it three times, and the first time was 30km out. I knew there was a hard downhill into it and then a big two-minute climb, which suits me well. I was sitting there with some friends, and I kind of pointed at it and said: “Okay guys, next year, 30km out I’m gonna go win worlds.” Fast forward a year, and I went in the exact spot I planned.
I was sitting there with some friends, and I kind of pointed at it and said: 'Okay guys, next year, 30km out I'm gonna go win worlds.'
TFS: Sounds like you’re a meticulous planner. Do you consider that one of your key strengths?
Yes, that’s one of the things I like most about road racing versus mountain biking. You think a lot more, and strategy plays a bigger role. I enjoy being able to either go out earlier or to really study a course online and pick your spots where you’re going to go for it and try and be the smartest racer I can.
TFS: Unlike MTB, road cycling is raced collectively as a team. How does that change the dynamics from a racing point of view?
On the mountain bike, there aren’t really any tactics, whereas being in a road team scenario, everyone has a role to play, and that’s actually really fun. If we achieve success everyone gets to share in that. To be part of a team that has one common goal and to have everyone rally around each other and come away with a big win, that’s something you definitely don’t get on the mountain bike.
TFS: What are your expectations for your first season as a neo-pro?
I really don’t know what to expect. Goal-wise, if I can just learn as much from these guys as I can, and then hopefully play a part in some good races, that would be an ideal scenario. If I can play a role in the team winning one of the big classics that would be the highlight of the year, then it would be good to get some strong results back in the US at the nationals.
TFS: What challenges do you expect to face in your first year racing with the elites?
Definitely, the hardest challenge will be the length. Speed-wise, when you consider the key sections of races, it’s not that different, it’s just that now I’m doing it after 200km instead of after 50km. If you look at our Junior races and the key points like Cauberg and Carrefour de l’Arbre, we ride them at virtually the same speed but now I have to learn how to do it six hours into a race instead of 40 minutes. I’ll also have to balance the workload of having a lot longer races and a lot more race days. I’ll have to learn how to manage a full-length pro season.
TFS: Trek-Segafredo has given you the green light to pursue some off-road challenges this year. You’re set to start in Dirty Kanza and Leadville 100. What are your expectations for those races?
I’m definitely going there to race and not just participate. I think winning Leadville and winning Kanza would be two good goals, but it won’t be a focus in my first season as a pro. As a 19-year-old, it’s nice to be able to go home, race those races and have a little break after to be able to come back stronger on the road for the second half of the season.
TFS: You’ll be teammates with Mads Pedersen, the current elite road world champion. Besides the rainbow stripes, do you share other affinities with him as a bike rider?
I think skills-wise, we have somewhat similar strengths. He was just as dominant in the Juniors as I was. Every race I won, he pretty much had also won, so it’s nice that he knows where I’m coming from and he’s definitely a really good person to learn from. He’s still young at just 24-years-old and is already wearing the World Champion jersey. He’s definitely someone who it’s easy to get behind, and I really hope I can help him win something big.
TFS: Best day ever you had on a bike so far?
Can I pick three? The first day that really stands out was when I won Gent-Wevelgem at the beginning of the year. That was my first big win in Europe, and the first time an American won a Junior classic ever. So to be able to be the first one to do that was really cool. I’d say the result I’m most proud of would have been placing second at Leadville after chasing back all day, and then the big highlight was winning the Worlds.
TFS: And worst day on the bike?
The worst day is a toss-up between Roubaix and the road Nationals. I just didn’t have it, and they were two of my big targets for the year. Mentally and physically, I wasn’t where I needed to be, and I know that I should have been up there. I wasn’t, so that kind of eats at me still.
TFS: Madone, Emonda, or Domane: What model will you be riding most often in your first season as a pro, and what are your favorite features about the bike?
For sure, I’ll spend most of my time on the Madone this season. It’s a great bike, it’s just so fast, especially on a flat road and suits my riding style well. It’s super stiff, super-fast, and when you get rolling, it’s great fun. On top of that, the team has given me a custom painted model, which definitely doesn’t hurt one bit.
TFS: Quickfire questions:
Sports idol growing up?
It would have to be either Tom Boonen or Fabian Cancellara.
If you could win any race in the WorldTour, which would it be?
Which skill/talent do you have that people don’t know about?
I don’t think it’s exactly a secret, but I’m pretty handy at rock climbing and skiing.
Finish the following sentence: 2020 will be a success for me if …
… I win my first pro race.