America’s Tour de France surprise Neilson Powless: ‘I’ll just keep this GC ball rolling’

EF Education-EasyPost talent reflects on impressive first part of the Tour and his excitement to be racing at the front

Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

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MORZINE, France (VN) – Neilson Powless continues to ride high in the 2022 Tour de France, placed ninth overall on the race’s second rest day as it heads into the toughest Alpine stages.

“I’m really happy with how the first week went. I had a really smooth ride, I just seemed to always be at the right place in the right time,” the EF Education-EasyPost ace told VeloNews after the finish of stage 9.

Powless came close to both the yellow jersey and a stage victory in the first week, with a day-long breakaway over the cobbles on stage 5, culminating with his attack close to the finish at Arenberg-Porte du Hainaut.

He ended up painfully close, within 13 seconds of the yellow jersey. That day included an interesting tactical decision from teammate Alberto Bettiol to ride on the front of the chasing group on several occasions; Powless set the record straight in his VeloNews blog that there’s no bad blood between the pair.

“I had a lot of fun just moving through the peloton, trying to find the right moves to go in. It was exciting, it’s exciting to be racing at the front. I’m really happy to be there,” he said of his first nine stages.

It’s been a breakthrough third Tour de France for the man from California who already showed his prowess with Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa victory and fifth at the world championships road race in the stars and stripes jersey last year.

If there was a question whether Powless or Rigoberto Uran would both go for GC at the race, Stage 9 between Aigle and Châtel answered it. While Bob Jungels (Citroën-AG2R) escaped to victory ahead, the American clung onto the group of contenders, finishing 13 seconds down on Pogačar and Vingegaard.

“I lost a couple of seconds in the end but I was really happy to be up there with the best guys,” Powless said.

“The team was super good today, they helped me come back from an early crash. All I had to do was sit in the wheel and let them pull me back, they were pushing super hard to do that.

“I still had two team-mates with me into the bottom of the last climb, which was stellar. So, only positive things to say about today.”

Meanwhile, experienced teammate Rigoberto Urán joined the day’s breakaway, but was pulled back and dropped, losing almost seven minutes to the favorites.

Powless had hoped UAE-Team Emirates would give the escape more leeway or even end up in a scenario where his Colombian colleague pulled on the yellow jersey, but no dice.

“I was a little bit bummed that Rigo couldn’t make it with the best guys in the breakaway but I think he’s still trying to find his legs again after some early crashes and whatnot,” the 25-year-old added.

“At least we gave it a try so we’re in the race and I’m still in a pretty good place. I think I’ll just keep this GC ball rolling.”

What’s next for Neilson?

His strategy for the days ahead is fairly straightforward. “I think I just have to stick with the GC guys and play off of UAE, they’re trying to have a smooth race so I think I just have to stay with them. I’m still happy to do that because I’m saving a lot more energy that way.

“If I do need to try to go into a breakaway later in the race, if I lose enough time for that, then hopefully my legs will be a bit more fresh from just having smooth rides every day.”

Lastly, his second rest day plans? “Massage, a nap, see the chiropractor, eat good food, go for a short ride, talk to my wife.

“Not too much, try to take my mind off of cycling and lay up as much as I can.”

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.