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ANTWERP, Belgium (VN) — One day you’re training on your own in Girona, adjusting to life in Europe, easing into your first pro season after efforts in Oman and Qatar. You’re young, you’re a time trial specialist, and you haven’t done much racing in Europe.
And then you’re told to get to Belgium because soon you’ll be racing Paris-Roubaix.
Welcome to the UCI WorldTour, Evan Huffman.
Huffman signed with Astana last November and is the most recent in a line of California Giant-Specialized elite riders to move into the professional ranks.
Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) is the most well-known product of the development squad. Huffman is the under-23 U.S. time trial champion, and he won a stage at the SRAM Tour of the Gila in 2012.
And now he’s been called upon to help Astana at the Queen of the Classics in his first pro season — one of the hardest races on the calendar with its brutal, bumpy 254 kilometers and more than 20 granite setts.
Huffman’s ridden a bit of stones on the American U23 squad, and Astana was planning to recon some of the sectors on Thursday. Huffman, though, doesn’t seem phased. At least he wasn’t letting on.
“For sure it’s a big deal. It’s one of the biggest one-day races all year. And yeah, I’m a little nervous, but I’m excited too,” he said. “I’ve been on the reserve lists all year. I’ve known it’s a possibility and it’s just worked out with the roster we had.
“We have a team at Basque Country right now, and a lot of guys are resting for later stuff, like the Giro. We don’t have a lot of real specialists at these type of races I guess.”
It’s still safe to assume that for Huffman, a 23-year-old time trial specialist, this will be a baptism by fire. It seemed likely at dinner with Astana management he’d be sent up the road early to hopefully help out his teammates down the line.
“It’s not the races that suit him best, but we are short a man. And he hasn’t raced a lot this year,” Astana sport director Jaan Kirsipuu said. “This is an important opportunity for him to have some racing kilometers and experience. Even if I know these probably ever aren’t going to be his races. He will discover European cycling; he will understand it better.
“It’s not too hard. But I saw him racing in Qatar. And he’s used to the American highways. These are very tricky races, technical races. He’s not a very technical rider. He’s just power.”
All that power will meet the roads of Paris-Roubaix Sunday for Huffman’s first time in the big leagues.