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Cannondale-Drapac’s Alex Howes Gets PEZ’d!
Giro Rider Interview: It seems a long time since Alex Howes won the US Under 23 National road and crit champs (2009), but there have been five Grand Tour finishes and numerous other results for the man from Denver since then. Ed Hood caught up with Howes soon after he crossed the final line in Milan of the 2017 Giro d'Italia.

Canazei - Italia - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Alex HOWES (USA / Cannondale Drapac Professsional Cycling Team) pictured during team stage 17 of the Giro D’Italia 2017  from  Tirano to Canazei, 219.00 km -  photo Miwa iijima/Cor Vos © 2017

Cannondale-Drapac’s former US U23 road race and criterium champion, Alex Howes first burst on to the pro scene in 2012 with a top drawer performance in the ‘prologue’ for the Ardennes Classics, the Brabantse Pijl – Thomas Voeckler won that year and Greg Van Avermaet was fifth,

Since then he’s ridden the Tour and the Vuelta but this year was his first participation in the Giro – we thought we should 'have a word'.

Oropa - Italia - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Alex HOWES (USA / Cannondale Drapac Professsional Cycling Team) pictured during team stage 14 of the Giro D’Italia 2017  from Castellania to Oropa, 131.00 km -  photo Miwa iijima/Cor Vos © 2017

PEZ: Congratulations, Alex you’ve now finished all three of the Grand Tours – how do they compare and which is your favorite?
Alex Howes:
They say a rider gets his, "real" professional racing license when he crosses the finish line on le Champs Elysees at the Tour. I’d say they should reserve issuing the license until he completes all three Grand Tours. There’s so much to be learned from each. The Vuelta is punchy, unpredictable, and full of 1:00 am bedtimes. The Tour is just war. War with the courses, the Media and the peloton. The Giro is just plain hard. Honestly, I think the Vuelta is my favorite simply because I speak Spanish well enough to understand what’s going on all month and I can really interact with the fans.

PEZ: What’s your take on the Giro’s three rest days and the transfers?
My ideal grand tour would be 21 stages over the course of two months! I’m a big fan of rest days! But seriously, the extra rest day is hardly noticed after three weeks of racing. As for the transfers, this year’s Giro was a piece of cake. Although, maybe I just think that because the Cannondale-Drapac bus is so nice!

Meppel - Nederland - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme -  Royal Smilde Olympia’s Tour - 1e etappe  - Heerenveen - Meppel - Alex Howes Garmin bij de dokter van Service Medical  - foto Wessel van Keuk/Cor Vos ©2010

PEZ: Pierre Rolland’s stage win must have been nice to be part of?
It was strange in a way. I knew by the third day of the race that he would win a stage. So it was no surprise to hear, “Keep pushing! Tu vas gagner!” over my radio. Yet it was a surprise. It’s always a surprise. Always a treat. Almost more than winning yourself, it was amazing to see how happy the whole team and staff were not just to win but for Pierre to win. He’s a great person and a character that really lifts the whole team day after day.

PEZ: Which was the toughest day for you?
Stage Eight was pretty rough. We race like wild men for the first hour – 53 kph plus! Gorka Izagirre (Movistar Team) won that one over a 189km rolling parcours from Molfetta to Peschici – over the hills of the Gargano region in South Eastern Italy with no respite. I forced my way into the break only to see the whole race get flipped upside down on the long climb of the day. There was plenty of time in among the cars after that.

Eibar - Spain - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme -  Alex HOWES (USA / Cannondale Drapac Professsional Cycling Team) pictured during stage 6 of the 57th Vuelta al Pais Vasco (2.UWT) - from Eibar to  Eibar ITT Time Trial Individual - photo Miwa iijima/Cor Vos © 2017

PEZ: Pierre’s win apart what was your personal hi-lite of the Giro?
Watching Mike “the rook” Woods roll in from the final TT in Milan. The guy was absolutely glowing after completing his first Grand Tour.

PEZ: What's your take on the 'to wait or not' argument on crashes/punctures/toilet stops?
I hope Tom Dumoulin continues to ride like the classy champion that he is despite the actions of some of his competitors.

Bountiful - USA - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Alex Howes (Cannondale - Drapac)  pictured during  The Larry H.Miller Tour of Utah 2016 stage 5 from  Im Antelope Island St. P. to Bountiful - photo Brian Hodes/Cor Vos © 2016***USA OUT***

PEZ: What's your post Grand Tour recovery routine?
Typically after a Grand Tour I pack up my apartment in Girona and head back to the states. Not exactly the most restful activity. Maybe I should work on that.

PEZ: So you’re still Girona based?
I’m currently in Colorado but we’ll see how late summer shapes up. I expect to be back in Girona at some point.

Olbia - Italia - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Alex Howes (USA - Cannondale - Drapac) pictured during team stage 1 of the Giro D’Italia 2017  from Alghero to  Olbia 206KM  photo IB/LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2017

PEZ: You won the mountains jersey in the Pais Vasco in the spring - that must have been a nice morale boost, was it a target going in to the race?
It was a nice moral boost and a nice looking jersey as well! It was never the plan but with some aggressive racing the jersey found its way to me. I’m pretty happy to be able to say that I won the climber’s jersey in the hardest climbing stage race in the world!

PEZ: Your 2017 Ardennes Classics campaign - were you happy with it?
No. Amstel went wrong at the wrong moment just before the race exploded and I found myself with great legs but on the back foot chasing the front. Fleche we did a super job positioning and I put Michael Woods into the base of Huy in the top five wheels but his lungs were giving him grief and the result just wasn’t to be. And Liege I had a freak issue with my knee mid way through the race that left me limping through the airport that night. Sometimes that’s what you get with one day racing but this year the frustration was particularly high.

Lac de Payolle - France  - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme -  Vincenzo Nibali (ITA-Astana)  - Alex Howes (USA-Cannondale) - Daniel Navarro (SPA-Cofidis) pictured during stage 7 of the 2016 Tour de France from  L’Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle, 162.00 km - photo VK/PN/Cor Vos © 2016

PEZ: What did you think of the new Amstel parcours with no Cauberg in the finale?
I’m a big fan. It was fantastic to see the race open up a long way from the finish this year. It made for some exciting and dynamic racing. I just wish I had my finger on the pulse as it was all going down!

PEZ: You went pretty much straight from the Ardennes to the Giro, how was that for you as preparation?
I think it could have been nearly ideal but with a bum knee after Liege I had to take a very conservative approach and I came in a bit too under cooked.

Valkenburg - Netherlands - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Davide Rebellin (Italiy / Team Ccc Polsat Polkowice) - Alex Howes (USA / Team Garmin - Sharp)   pictured during Amstel Gold Race 2014 World Cup UCI with start in Maastricht and finish in Valkenburg  - photo  Dion Kerckhoffs/Davy Rietbergen/Cor Vos © 2014

PEZ: What’s on the agenda now?
For now the goal is to get healthy, get real life back on track (we had functional internet maybe just three days at the Giro) and gear up for Nationals.

PEZ: The National Championships must be a big target after you finished second last year?
The Nationals is always a target but it is a big question mark how the legs will react after the Giro and no racing in between. Also, it’s a pretty flat course and with no team support it will be a tall order to come home with the title.

Reggio Emilia - Italia - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Alex HOWES (USA / Cannondale Drapac Professsional Cycling Team) - Adam HANSEN (Australia / Team Lotto Soudal) pictured during team stage 12 of the Giro D’Italia 2017  from Forlì to Reggio Emilia, 237.00 km -  photo Miwa iijima/Cor Vos © 2017

PEZ: I was reading you think the sport is getting too 'techie' and 'aero' - would you rather have been a pro in the 70's than now?
No. I think now is the best time to ever be a pro. Salaries on a whole are higher than ever, drug testing is the best it has ever been, there are cool new races popping up all the time (Tour of Colorado is back on!) and the little old lady sitting next to me on the airplane knows what the Tour de France is. However, I think we can learn from the champions of the past. Numbers are interesting but let’s not lose the panache, style, grace, beauty, and flow that made cycling such a spectacle to begin with.

# PEZ fully endorses that last quote! With thanks to Mr. Howes and wishing him well for the rest of the season. #

Monarch Mountain - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme -  Alex Howes (USA / Team Garmin - Sharp) pictured during  Stage 3: Gunnison to Monarch Mountain  Wednesday, Aug. 20  of he 2014 USA Pro Challenge - Tour of Colorado 2014 -  photo Brian Hodes/Cor Vos © 2014*****USA-OUT******





It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he's covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,500 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself - many years and kilograms ago - and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.

 

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