At only 18 years old, Durango’s Quinn Simmons has earned six USA Cycling national championship jerseys. The one he earned Thursday may have been the one that surprised him most.
Nobody doubted Simmons’ ability in the individual time trail race on a 12.8-mile out-and-back course on the opening day of the 2019 USA Cycling Amateur Road National Championships in Hagerstown, Maryland. He was projected to finish on the podium, but a few other riders were favored ahead of him on a simple course that didn’t play to Simmons’ technical prowess gained during two seasons competing in Europe.
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But Simmons showed he is the strongest American junior between the ages of 17 and 18 on a road bike, and he did it in dominant fashion Thursday. He won the junior men’s 17-18 time trial national championship in 25 minutes, 27.14 seconds. Matthew Riccitello was second, 33.28 seconds behind Simmons’ time, and Michael Garrison was third, 55.14 seconds behind Simmons. That gave the Lux Cycling Development Team a clean sweep of the podium.
“I think today would definitely be the biggest surprise of all of them,” Simmons said of his six titles. “There’s a bunch of really fast guys who specialize in the time trial and I’m more focused on the road race world. It was a pretty typical American time trial, not really the most entertaining. There was a headwind out, tailwind back, so really the only strategy anyone could ride was to try to push it on the way out and try to hang on the way back, and that’s what I did.”
Simmons was one of the last riders to start with only two others behind him in the field of 69 competitors. He picked off one rider in front of him halfway out and another at the finish line, so he knew he had turned in a good time. He didn’t have to wait long to know he had won the title.
It was only in 2018 that Simmons began racing on the road full time. A week after he won the short-track and cross-country mountain bike national championships for his age group, he went to Maryland and claimed the road race title. This year, he has put the mountain bike away and raced on the road full time, with historic results for an American with wins at Junior Gent-Wevelgem and Three Days of Axel stage race already this spring.
Simmons will try to make it a seventh national championship with the road race Saturday in what likely will be his final national championships before reaching the under-23 category next year, as he is not expected to compete at mountain bike nationals at Winter Park in July.
“It’s a big goal of mine, one of the four targets I wrote down at the beginning of the year,” he said of defending the road race jersey. “So, I’m excited to see what I can do.”
Simmons, son of Holly and Scott Simmons, was proud to show his strength once more on home soil in his first American race since he won the final stage of the Redlands Bicycle Classic and took home two jerseys from the event in March.
“I took a risk and tried to hold form all the way from basically March to now,” Simmons said. “I have a break coming up, and I’m definitely starting to feel tired. But I’m in a good spot and looking forward to taking some time off and then building up toward the rest of the season.”
For the rising road star, Thursday also was a chance to further prove himself as a well-rounded racer, as he hopes to sign with a European professional team next year and race in Europe full time.
“For me, this one actually helps a lot,” Simmons said. “It was a course that really didn’t suit me. I do better when it’s more technical and punchy. Being able to show I’m strong and can hang in even when it doesn’t suit me and not at my element, that really helps going forward. Being able to do everything is a good way to hopefully get a job. My goal is to keep progressing and see where we can end up.”
Simmons said Sunday’s criterium will be his final event for awhile after a jam-packed spring of racing. His next target will be the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Championships to be held Sept. 22-29 in Yorkshire, England, though he will have several European tune-up races before worlds.
“This sets a good baseline,” Simmons said. “Now doing both the time trial and road at worlds, those are two really good targets now to set for the rest of the year.”