We caught up with Evan Huffman after his 2017 racing season a couple of weeks ago.
SPRUZZA Wow 2017 has been a pretty good season for you. Looking back from the couch in January before the season started how has it stacked up to your expectations or anticipations?
EVAN It’s been a phenomenal year in which I greatly exceeded my expectations. I won 7 races and unlike last year, they were all UCI races, including the 2 WT ones in ToC, so I’m winning at bigger races, not just winning more.
SPRUZZA The team really seemed to gel this year. You’ve been key to point this out along with Rob Britton and others but what was the “magic dust” that brought you all together so effectively this season?
EVAN It’s difficult to nail down the “magic dust”. I guess it’s just the right mix of personalities. It’s been really good to have the same core group racing together all season so we have been able to get more and more experience working together. We don’t have any big egos demanding leadership. Everyone just trains and races the best they can and we work for whoever is the strongest at any given race.
SPRUZZA For me the highlight of your and RALLY’s season has to be AMGEN. I mean the 3 stage wins 2 for you and 1 for Britton was huge. Especially for the kickoff year of AMGEN going to World Tour status. How big was this performance for you and RALLY as you look back over 2017?
EVAN For sure. It can be difficult for me to appreciate what we did there, because in one sense, it’s just another bike race. But of course in another sense, it’s the biggest race on our calendar, by far, so it was a huge deal to perform so well there. I think that was a big part of the team’s continued growth to Pro Continental status for next year.
SPRUZZA One of the hallmarks of a professional in any sport is consistency. It’s a good indicator of effective training, maturity and at least the developing “heart of a champion”. You were pretty consistent this year, winning and finishing on a predictable basis. What are your thoughts on your growth as a pro cyclist?
EVAN Yes, consistency is something you hear a lot about in this sport because the season can be so long. I think I’ve always been a pretty consistent rider so it’s been about maintaining that consistency as I bring the overall level higher. I think I did well this year, but there’s always room for improvement. Next year I hope to keep my season going all the way until the end of September for Worlds. That said, it’s also impossible to be in top form for 7-8 months straight so it’s a bit of an art timing the peaks and valleys to match up with the race calendar.
SPRUZZA We’ve seen this image several times in 2017. It’s becoming your signature “pose”. I love it, especially the message GRACE and TRUTH. Can you share a bit the story behind this and what it means on and off the bike?
EVAN I thought that would be a cool tattoo idea partly for the victory salutes so I was searching for a couple words that were meaningful enough when I landed on John 1:17 “For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Without going into a long winded theology lesson, that’s a pretty succinct summary of the Christian faith which is something that’s of ultimate importance to me.
SPRUZZA You’re what 27 this year and you’ve just signed a 2 year contract with RALLY CYCLING. That’s got to feel good especially as next year RALLY is moving to Pro Continental status. How do you see this playing out over the rest of your career – at least the next 5 years?
EVAN It’s really hard to say, I’m just focusing on the next 2 years. I think this is a good step for me because Rally is obviously a team where I’m really successful and I believe there’s still room here for me to keep growing as a rider and person.
SPRUZZA You’ve gotten some great press lately and one topic that comes up frequently is your struggles with Astana and your short career in Europe. Do you see yourself as the “comeback kid” or more as a normal pro cyclist who is just developing and coming into their prime?
EVAN It’s kinda hard to say what makes a “normal” pro cyclist, there’s just so many different career paths out there. I’ve definitely made some big steps in my development the last 2 years with Rally, but I still don’t regret going to Astana. It was tough, but it wasn’t all bad, and I definitely learned a lot there that I couldn’t have elsewhere.
SPRUZZA Okay putting you a bit on the spot for a moment. You’ve had some really big wins, Tour of Gila, 2 stages at AMGEN along with the KOM [tied this year], 5TH overall at Joe Martin Stage Race and then taking the GC Win at Tour of Alberta. That’s a LOT of wins. What’s the best?
EVAN I think Stage 7 at ToC because it was such an unnecessary bonus after winning stage 4. Our pre-race meeting was basically the same: everyone try to get in the break, ideally together. And we ended up with 3 guys there, riding super hard all the way to the finish. And then the last few K’s it was just seamless teamwork once again between me and Rob to win the race.
SPRUZZA So it’s the time of year when everybody’s looking back. What worked, what didn’t and what should I do different next year. Tell us a bit about what worked for you training wise this year?
EVAN I lean really heavily on my coach, Jesse Moore, for my training. We do a lot of pretty dynamic, but structured workouts, so I think that keeps me interested and motivated while working on different things. I do less “max effort” type workouts than I used to, which has really helped me to stay mentally fresh for races.
SPRUZZA California had one of the hottest summers in a long time. The smart guys tell us training in the heat has some advantages. Do you think this played any part in your conditioning? How did you handle it?
EVAN Yes, training in the heat can be really good, especially when you’re not used to it, similar to high altitude in some ways. However, when it’s really hot really consistently, it’s crucial to get your training stress from your actual output, not the heat. So the middle/end of the summer is all about staying cool for me. Which means riding earlier in the morning and using Spruzza, a neat little on the bike cooling device, basically a mister.
I chuckled when I read this quote from you, “I'm a little on the heavier side compared to guys like Sepp, so I'm good in time trials and breakaways," Huffman said. "When it starts getting into the double-digit gradients, it's not really my style. But like today, five or six per cent and really steady, I can go uphill pretty well.
SPRUZZA What’s your favorite or maybe I should say toughest training hill locally?
EVAN My favorite is Mosquito Ridge Rd, because it’s really long and a nice, quiet road. The toughest…maybe Bayne Rd because it’s so brutally steep.
SPRUZZA We hear too, you’ve got some very exciting news in your personal life. Care to share a bit on that?
EVAN Yes, I’m getting married on October 6th and moving to Sacramento.
SPRUZZA Lastly plans for the off season and the big picture for next year?
EVAN Pretty focused on the wedding and honeymoon at this point. It’s been a long wait! Too soon to say for much of next year. Need to have some conversations with the directors and my coach as far as race schedule. But overall, I just want to keep moving ahead in the direction I have been, winning big races and being a good leader.