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“I’m a Rolex flexin’, diamond ring wearin’, limousine ridin’, private plane flyin’, wheelin’ dealin’, kiss stealin’ son of a gun and I’m having a hard time keeping these alligators down. Now give me two claps and a Ric Flair.”
The Aevolo U23 team, managed by former pro Mike Creed, has developed a pre-race ritual. Somewhere near the start line, rider Lance Haidet shouts out a pro wrestling rap to get his teammates pumped for the battle they’re about to begin. From the outside, it’s a little awkward, akin to a pre-game football chant rarely seen in pro cycling.
— The Tour of Utah (@TourofUtah) August 10, 2018
“I do a lot of cyclocross as well, but coming to the road, where everyone is super serious and everyone has their pre-race rituals… we want to do stuff differently than everyone else, and that’s just part of it,” Haidet told CyclingTips.
Aevolo is the newest American under-23 development team, following a similar path as the Hagens Berman Axeon team. The yellow and green squad is led by Creed, who has looked like quite the genius over the last month with the results the team has been garnering. Creed, however, doesn’t see the team’s success as an extraordinary achievement. He sees the United States as a nation so flush with talent that it is not hard to look strategic when recruiting.
Revolving door of riders
Creed doesn’t have the budget or the resources to compete against the likes of the long-running Axeon team led by Axel Merckx, so he has to search for his talent a little harder, but he says that hasn’t been an issue for him.
“There’s so much talent out there that it can make you look smart,” he said. “It’s not like I did anything that anybody else couldn’t do, it’s just I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do it,” Creed said. “There’s just so much talent out there right now that as long as you pick semi-wisely you’re going to find some amazing kids.”
While Creed calls it “luck” to be given the opportunity to lead the Aevolo program, he was, in fact, actively recruited.
At first, Creed ignored emails from team owner Steven van der Zwan, uninterested in getting back in the directing side of the sport. He felt burned when the SmartStop program folded a few years ago and wasn’t looking for that to happen again. Ultimately, an intermediary persuaded Creed to respond to an email, and a year and a half later, Creed and company are riding the wave of success.
Recent stand-out performances at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and Colorado Classic have shown the world what Creed’s team is capable of. Gage Hecht, who won the Boise stop in the USA CRITS series, emphatically won the opening stage of the Colorado Classic in solo fashion, the team’s first UCI win. The squad also dominated the USA Cycling under-23 national championships, taking all three titles – road race, criterium, and time trial. Hecht won two of the three: the criterium and time trial.
“The whole point is to lose guys,” said Creed, who anticipates losing a few riders to bigger squads at the end of the year. “If we kept a 19-year-old until he was 22 then it doesn’t mean it was a bad thing, but maybe it wasn’t a great thing, either. We are not going to grow the team bigger, it’s not like we are going to go to division 2 or overcommit, but we’ll just make the team denser and better and stuff like that.”
Much to Creed’s surprise, he’s found enjoyment from directing the younger riders on Aevolo. He’s noticed the progression his riders take is so much more pronounced than those of more seasoned riders.
“They’re young and whereas when you work with older riders who are in their mid-20s, early-30s, in that age range, you generally know what their talent is, and they can surprise you, but there is a bit of a ceiling to it. Whereas with a 19-year-olds, they’re just getting better and better. It’s not half a percent or one percent gains now, it’s like a few five- or eight-percent gains, and when they make those jumps, it’s really cool.”
After flying under the radar for much of last season, Creed’s riders have stepped up their game this year and produced results well above their expectations.
Creed also puts an emphasis on academics. It’s a rarity in cycling for a professional team, even a development team, to require all of their riders to be in school. However, Aevolo does this because a professional cycling career doesn’t last forever and even the riders who have long-standing careers are generally finished by their late 30s. Having something to fall back on when a cycling career is finished is important.
The delicate balance of racing and academics does have its challenges from a directing standpoint, but Creed just works around his riders’ school schedules.
“If they have to go to school and take finals and miss a race that’s fine, it is what it is. It’s not even a point worth worrying about,” Creed said.
Aevolo is a squad made up of riders that Creed has found from searching and figuring out who needs that little extra push in development. The team isn’t made up of marquee stars, but Creed’s riders have earned their place in the peloton. The squad is shaping up to be a team of self-made star riders-riders that put the time in and when given the opportunity, grasped it and demonstrated what they are capable of.
2018 Aevolo Cycling Roster:
Kenny Boots, Laurent Gervais, Lance Haidet, Gage Hecht, Michael Hernandez, Alex Hoehn, Fernando Islas, Nick McKey, Jason Saltzman, Denzel Stephenson, Tyler Stites, and Luis Villalobos