Evan Huffman has been a bit of a local legend in the Northern California race scene for some time, having previously ridden for domestic pro squad Cal Giant where he won the Junior National Road title in ’08 and the Elite National ITT title in ’10. The Elk Grove native then turned world tour pro with Astana in 2013, where he spent two seasons before returning to domestically based Team SmartStop Pro Cycling. Huffman claimed the team’s first win- taking the third stage by solo’ing from a two man break and securing the KOM in this year’s Vuelta Independencia Nacional in the Dominican Republic.
We got a chance to catch up with Evan and play a quick game of 10 Questions with him before he had to get back to his duties at SmartStop.
Ritchey Logic: Welcome back to the domestic peloton! I was happy to hear of your signing to Astana a couple years ago, but I’m equally pleased to have you back, as I feel like a rider of your caliber raises the quality of racing domestically. Could you tell us a bit about racing for a team like Astana, versus racing for SmartStop and the perks of being on either team?
Evan Huffman: There are definitely pros and cons to either team. Being on a big team like Astana is great because you have access to a ton of support (better/more equipment, additional staff, etc.) and every race is pretty important and a big opportunity. The main downside for me is there's a lot more traveling and time spent out of the US and it's difficult to find exactly where you fit in such a large organization.
On a smaller American team like SmartStop you can miss some of those little amenities like always staying in nice hotels, getting more clothing and equipment than you know what to do with, and always having a ton of staff at races and training camps. The trade-off is you get to spend a lot more time at home and racing in the US. I like SmartStop specifically so much because it's such a great group of people. Everyone here from the riders to the staff to the sponsors are really passionate and invested in being the best team possible. I'm having a lot of fun racing my bike again so it's the perfect fit for me right now and I couldn't be much happier
RL: What do you nerd out on most with your bike? Or do you just give your measurements to your mechanic and trust they’ll dial you in?
EH: I used to be really particular about most things on my bike, but spending time in the WorldTour has made me more relaxed. When you're rotating on 4-5 bikes throughout a season you realize it's more of a hassle than it's worth to nit-pick things. My policy is to make friends with the mechanics so you can learn how each other do things and then trust them to set everything up how you like it.
RL: #1 guilty pleasure you indulge in?
EH: Ice cream
RL: What races do you look forward to doing in the coming season and why? Conversely, what do you see as being your biggest challenges for the coming season?
EH: I'm most looking forward to the Tour of California and National Championships. California because I think it's the most important race in America and the first 2 stages are right on my home roads where I grew up training and currently live. National Championships because I've had success there at the Junior and U23 levels in the past, but haven't yet raced the Pro events. My goal is to win the time trial and help the team keep the road race title.
This season I want to challenge myself to be more of a leader, both on the road and in the results. I know I'm still young and have a lot to learn, but I've come a long way since I was last racing domestically. I also want to get a better idea of what type of rider I am and what I'm capable of achieving in the long term.
RL: Classic bend bars or ergo bend? Is it preference or science, or both?
EH: I've always preferred ergo bend. I think it's both preference and science. I ride a lot in the drops and the ergo bend feels more comfortable and natural in that position for me.
RL: Favorite person to ride with?
EH: Definitely Nate Wilson even though it's been a while since we last rode together. He's a great friend and we both like to play the highest kilojoules per hour game on endurance rides (strongly avoid stopping and coasting).
RL: Pancakes or potatoes?
RL: Best advice you received by another rider either coming up or recently?
EH: I can't think of anything a rider told me, but last year a director, Jan Kirsipuu told me, "When you get in a break away, you must immediately think about winning, not just making it to the finish ahead of the peloton," which is obviously great advice and a problem myself and a lot of younger riders seem to have.
RL: What’s the best part about your bike, and do you have a name or persona for it?
EH: I can't decide, every part is important. I've never named any part of my bike.
RL: I heard Nibali wouldn’t talk to you until you slammed your stem- is this true?
EH: No way. He wouldn't talk to me until I addressed him in Italian, lol. But seriously, he's a nice guy and is always quick to thank his teammates for a job well done.
Evan, we look forward to your coming season- if this first race is any indicator, you’re going to have a great 2015! Thanks again for taking some time for us- we’re happy and proud to support you and Team SmartStop Pro Cycling.