The Tour Down Under marks the official start point of WorldTour season five for young American Quinn Simmons, but with that also five years since he became the junior Road World Champion in Yorkshire.
As the seasons have ticked by but the wins haven’t since that crowning day in 2019, even Simmons himself has come to question whether this year will be ‘the’ year for his rise to the top. That’s a question which only further highlights the pressure placed on a 22-year-old to perform in the current peloton with Monuments and Grand Tours now being ticked off the palmarès of his fellow under-25s.
Speaking at Lidl-Trek’s December training camp in Calpe, Simmons was at peace with whether he’ll ever live up to the promise of being a junior World Champion who couldn’t have hit the ground running any harder by claiming that rainbow jersey.
“It kind of feels like all these other super talents have maybe realised that super talent, and I just haven’t yet,” Simmons told Cyclingnews.
“But whether it takes me two more years, or takes me four more years, or never happens – for me – it’s the chasing, the training and the working hard that I like.
“Maybe this year I do a perfect winter and I go on to do something crazy like those other guys have been doing and it’s an amazing season. Or maybe I take one step closer than I did last year and it’s still gonna be a success. I just really want to be able to go through a full year and have nothing go wrong.”
The amazing feats “those other guys” have been doing could refer to several recent achievements, be that Tadej Pogačar winning five Monuments and two Tours de France at 26, or Remco Evenepoel – the junior World Champion Simmons succeeded – taking the senior road race and time trial titles alongside a Vuelta a España overall aged only 23.
They were both prodigies at 19 and have now reached the pinnacle of the sport. Simmons was the same but has only four professional wins to show for his labour. But should the question at all be – why has that happened? Or have these generational super-talents skewed the expectations of both fans and riders themselves?
“I’m 22 and I’ve made the Tour de France team twice already and fine, I only finished one but essentially I have two Tour appearances already. Until like three years ago, that would have been a huge accomplishment. And now these other guys make me look like shit,” laughs Simmons.
Reminders of the young rider who triumphed in Harrogate have…