Quinn Simmons aims at ‘survival’ and stage wins in Vuelta a España grand tour debut

American racer riding into unknown in first-ever first three week race as he sets long-view on worlds, Paris-Roubaix

Photo: Getty Images

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Quinn Simmons is carrying two equally important yet drastically different goals into the back half of the Vuelta a España.

First – survive. Second – take a stage win. All while keeping Trek-Segafredo team captain Giulio Ciccone in position for a top-10 finish.

“Survive!” was Simmons’ first response when asked of his Vuelta goals this week.

“We’re here to protect Cicco’s (Ciccone – ed.) GC chances and see what we can do for him. If I can pick up a stage along the way, it makes it a perfect scenario,” Simmons told VeloNews.

It’s safe to say that Quinn Simmons will be keeping busy as he rides through the second half of his first-ever grand tour.

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Speaking on the first rest day of the race Monday, 20-year-old Simmons acknowledged he was riding into the unknown as he pedals into the second week of racing.

The seven-day Tirreno-Adriatico was Simmons’ longest stage race to date before he rolled out of Burgos last weekend, and the searing temperatures and steep climbs of Spain make for something of a grand tour baptism of fire for the Coloradan.

That didn’t put him off aiming high for the rest of the race.

“Today’s two days past my longest stage race ever so it’s hard to know how the legs will respond. For sure, there are some stages that suit me well and if there’s opportunity obviously I’ll take it,” he said Monday.

“Physically from what I’ve done in training, I know I can survive it. I think the mental stress of having to be turned on for five or six hours a day that’s gonna be the hardest part, it will be just a case of day by day, get through it. But in the worst case, it’s two more weeks of training here and then take a break and be good for the worlds and Roubaix.”

Racing in summer with an eye on the autumn: Roubaix, Worlds

No stage win will be no big deal for Simmons, who is pedaling through Spain with an eye toward the autumn.

After scoring the junior world title in 2019 and twice coming close at the junior Paris-Roubaix, the Durango native is looking to shine later this year on the terrain that suits him best – this autumn’s the world championships in Leuven, and Paris-Roubaix.

Just like his ambition to win a stage in Spain, Simmons has lofty goals for this autumn’s spectacular classics double-header.

“I haven’t decided which races at the worlds I’ll do. If I race under-23 the goal is obviously another rainbow jersey,” he said. “If I ride the elite, that changes the goals a bit, but hopefully, I’ll go well there, and then Roubaix … we’ll see.”

Whether Simmons “survives” or thrives through the Vuelta could characterize how his worlds-Roubaix double plays out.

Like his fellow Vuelta debutant Tom Pidcock, Simmons has the potential to animate the race in both the punchy hills of the Flanders worlds and the stones of Paris-Roubaix. Trek-Segafredo will take a strong lineup into the cobbled monument this October, and Simmons will have a pivotal part to play as he, Mads Pedersen, and Jasper Stuyven eye victory in the Roubaix velodrome.

“Having never done a grand tour I don’t know how I’ll be, maybe I come out of here still flying or I may come out of this and my season’s virtually over, it’s hard to say for now,” Simmons said. “But if I can be on a good form to try and take another jersey and then be there for Mads and Jasper at Roubaix, I think that’s the best goal – end the season well and start looking towards next year.”

Racing for Guercilena

After recently having his contract renewed through 2023, Simmons can be afforded the luxury of being able to look forward to the new year.

Like many others in his team, the Durango native paid tribute to team manager and spiritual talisman, Luca Guercilena. The Italian boss confirmed this weekend that he would be taking time away from the team in order to focus on his cancer treatment.

Also read: Trek-Segafredo races for Guercilena after team boss confirms illness

Guercilena has played a pivotal part in Simmons’ rollercoaster two seasons at Trek-Segafredo. As well as handing Simmons his pass to the WorldTour, the team boss took the tough call to suspend his young star after the controversy around what Trek-Segafredo deemed his “divisive, incendiary, and detrimental” comments on social media.

“Luca played a big part in why I chose this team, first as a neo-pro and when I chose to extend. I think he does a really good job in seeing potential young riders and believing in them,” Simmons said. “Anytime, something’s gone wrong or isn’t going right, he’s always been there for me and he has put a lot of faith in me.”

Guercilena’s illness has given Simmons and the rest of the Trek crew something to race for at this year’s Vuelta. A stage win from 20-year-old Simmons would make for a nice “get-well” gesture.

“We’re all just gonna do what we can to keep supporting him,” Simmons said “Luca’s a racer and he’s a winner. So the best thing we can do for him now is to keep fighting. We all really think about him and keep his spirit in the team alive because he always pushes us to get the most out of each other. I think the biggest thing we can do now is to keep that alive.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.