Breakaway or Bust
Rally’s inspiring recipe for success at the Amgen Tour of California – suffering, determination, and savvy tactics
All Photos on the road in California with Rally Cycling © Wil Matthews Photo
Rally Cycling’s (peloton) smashing success at the 2017 Amgen Tour of California underscores that even in this era of international super-teams and lead-out trains, the breakaway can survive… and thrive.
It just takes big doses of suffering, determination, and savvy tactics. In California, Rally had an abundance of all three.
Two times in just seven stages, the scenario was strikingly similar – multiple Rally Cycling riders driving a breakaway ahead of a desperately hard-charging peloton. And both times, Stages 4 and 7, Rally’s Evan Huffman crossed the line with arms aloft. In each case, the peloton splintered into small groups from the stress of its futile pursuit.
“The plan was to go full-on nuclear today. It’s been an amazing California for us. Even before today, everybody was just happy,” Rally team director Pat McCarty said after Sunday’s Stage 7, a race marked by soaring speeds and temperatures. “We had a stage already and had exceeded our expectations, so today was just all about some good hard bike racing and if we had legs to throw down. … I don’t think it was an enjoyable day for anybody, but if you can be on the giving end of the pain, especially if you can win at the end.”
Rally, registered as a UCI Continental team, was competing in its first WorldTour event. On paper, they’re overmatched underdogs.
Out on the road, Rally’s reality at the Amgen Tour of California was much different:
Stage Wins: two by Huffman.
King of Mountains Jersey: Huffman tied atop the standings.
Sprint Leader Jersey: Huffman in second (behind Peter Sagan).
Breakaway Most Courageous Jersey: Stage 4, Evan Huffman; Stage 5, Rob Britton of Rally; Stage 6, Britton; Stage 7, Huffman.
“The best week the team has had in eleven years,” Rally Performance Manager Jonas Carney summed up the race.
In Stage 7, Rally had three riders in the breakaway – Huffman, Britton,and 22-year-old Sepp Kuss.
“I used quite a bit of energy to get up to that break, so I was hurting right when I got on,” Kuss said. “I just hung on and recovered a bit and did my best to contribute to the break’s effort.”
After he fell off the breakaway, Kuss pedaled in listening eagerly to race radio for updates on the fate of Britton and Huffman in the break and was thrilled with a second stage win for the team. Whether it was stage victories or the disappointing Stage 2 – when the team lost sprinter Eric Young to a crash and time limit cut – the race was a learning experience.
“Just not being afraid to get out there and take chances to race aggressively. For me being a younger guy with less experience, I can learn a lot more by just putting my nose out there and being in a lot of different situations,” Kuss said. “Being aggressive on Mt. Baldy, that was a total learning experience. Today, being in the break, that was another learning experience, just not being intimidated by the level of the riders here.”
Indeed, Rally’s determination to win from the breakaway in stages where field sprints are expected, earned the team fans and respect. “The day after we won the first stage with Evan, Marcel Kittle came over to the car and rolled up and said, ‘Congrats guys. That was great.’”
Indeed it was.