“The opportunities I am given to explore the world because I’m a professional cyclist — they’re not lost on me.”
– Neilson Powless
EF Education First Pro Cycling is proud to announce the signing of young American talent Neilson Powless. The 23-year-old joins the team following two seasons with Jumbo-Visma.
Powless burst onto the United States road racing scene as a 19-year-old and found instant success, finishing ninth overall at the 2016 Amgen Tour of California and winning a stage at the Tour de l’Avenir. Those results shot him to the WorldTour.
“Neilson is one of those guys who comes from a diverse athletic background. Triathlon, mountain bike, and he’s a great athlete. Oftentimes we see those guys with broad backgrounds truly excel when they start to focus on one element, as Neilson has done with road recently,” said EF Education First Pro Cycling CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “I see him as a guy with a massive upside, from time trials to short stage races, and eventually the longer stage races, too. His climbing is improving every year. He can already be a leader in week-long stage races that are more time-trial focused. I think Neilson, along with Dani Martínez and Sergio Higuita, represent the next phase of our stage-race teams, and I’m very excited about it.”
Powless is currently racing the Vuelta a España, his first Grand Tour, where he is impressing in defense of teammate Primož Roglič’s red leader’s jersey. We talked to Powless after Wednesday’s wind-blown Vuelta stage about his move to EF Education First Pro Cycling, life in the WorldTour, his upbringing, and how he explores the world.
ON COMING TO EF EDUCATION FIRST PRO
I had to make so many changes in my life all at once when I joined the WorldTour, and I’ve realized that being on an American team, it can help me feel closer to home when I spend so much time away from home. I also see everyone on the team having a really great time. They really enjoy what they’re doing. You can see that in how the team races. You can see that around the dinner table. And you can see that in the way the riders on the team go about living their lives.
I’m also super impressed with EF. From everything I know, it seems like an awesome company. The company’s values, world travel, exploration, education, they align with my own, and I’m happy to associate myself with something I truly believe in, that I live.
I also have quite a few friends on the team, including one I’m living with, Sean Bennett. We’ve been having a great time together in Europe, and we grew up together. I’m excited to be teammates with him again.
I came into the WorldTour confident in the results I had, the abilities I was bringing with me from the development scene. My aim was to improve on all that, and, things didn’t really go the way I expected or hoped.
I know now that part of the reason things didn’t continue on this clear upward trajectory is because I had to make so many changes to my life to adapt to racing in the WorldTour, like moving to Girona and switching coaches, racing for a foreign team. It definitely challenged me in ways I hadn’t previously been challenged. It also forced me to grow. The amount of personal growth I’ve had these last two years will benefit me for the rest of my life.
All my standout moments came from when I supported my teammates. Riding for Primož [Roglič], like I’m doing here at the Vuelta, or Steven [Kruijswijk] at the Dauphiné. Being able to learn from guys who have such a wealth of experience and knowledge at the WorldTour level has been huge for my development. They have taught me so much about how to go for big results when you have the engine for that. I’m still working to develop my engine, and until that happens, there are so many little things I can focus on – when to spend energy, when to save energy, where to be and when in a race.
I’m a very adaptable cyclist. I’m climbing in the top 20 here in the Vuelta, leading into the last kilometers of a climb, and then I’m also able to make the front echelon when the entire race blows apart and then drop back to the peloton and pull in the crosswinds for 200 kilometers. I have a talent for time trialing, and I want to focus on that in the future. There are so many things that go into winning a time trial, not only the power you can produce in a specific position. I want to better understand how to race against the clock, race the terrain.
I want to win a bike race. I haven’t really thought about which one, mostly because we haven’t talked much about my race schedule yet, but any bike race. I want to win one. And when it’s not my turn to go for a result, I definitely want to be a part of many, many team wins. Eventually when I start a race, I want to go in as a favorite. I don’t know when I’ll get there, but that’s the aim. I hope to be one of the top general classification riders in the world in the future. I believe that if I focus on improving all the small details every day, that I will get there.
I come from a sporting family. My mom was an Olympian. She ran in the 1992 Olympics, the marathon, in Barcelona, Spain. My dad was in the Air Force and was a triathlete for his entire life. He raced Ironmans, and one year, he won an award for being the top Ironman finisher who was also in the military. My mom transitioned to triathlon a bit later in life, and that’s when she and my dad met. Then they both became coaches after that.
My family, my parents, me, my sister, we spent every minute of free time outside, swimming in the lake, running and riding bikes on the trails in Northern California. We were also together, always being active. Family time was training time, but it didn’t feel like training. It’s just what we did as a family.
My sister is a professional cyclist now, too. She races on the road for Team Twenty20, and she’s started to get into the track scene with USA Cycling. If things continue to go well there, she’ll be racing on the track in the 2020 Olympics, in Tokyo. I’d be over the moon if I could race the Olympics next year, too. If we could both be there. I’m definitely going into next season with Tokyo in mind. It’s been a dream of mine pretty much forever.
EXPLORE THE WORLD
For me, I explore the world when I take notice of differences between cultures and allow them to expand my perspective on life. For example, here in Spain, the internal clock, it’s so different than what I’m used to. Everything is pushed back by five or six hours. Getting to experience so many different parts of the world when you’re 22, 21, which is how old I was when I moved to Girona, having experiences like this at this age, it shapes who you are, adds so much value to your life. I know how lucky I am to get to travel all over Europe, to China, to South America. The opportunities I am given to explore the world because I’m a professional cyclist — they’re not lost on me.