American Neilson Powless, 20 years old, is setting his sights for the professional ranks in 2018 after a "huge" win in the GP Palio del Recioto yesterday in Verona, Italy.
Powless, part of the powerful American development team Axeon Hagens Berman, already placed third overall in the Le Triptyque stage race, 10th in the Tour of Flanders and sixth in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
"It's huge," speaking by telephone with Cycling Weekly about his GP Palio del Recioto win.
"I looked back through the results and it's pretty wild to see the names that have come through this race: It's pretty awesome to scroll through the results to see their names and then mine. That's really awesome."
Caleb Ewan won in 2013, and other other victors include Gianni Moscon, Gianluca Brambilla, Fabian Cancellara.
Powless rode free with Australian Lucas Hamilton (Mitchelton Scott) in the final 45-kilometre circuit. He followed when Hamilton tried to leave him on the climbs and gambled, successfully, on the two-up sprint.
It wasn't the first win of 2017 with him taking this years Triptyque time trial too, but it mattered. Powless dropped out of the University in Roseville, California to devote himself full time to a cycling career. These wins put him on the right path towards a WorldTour contract in 2018.
"I'm not stressed about the future. I'm looking forward to it. I'm just focus on being a better bike rider and developing as a human being instead of worrying about next year or two," added Powless.
"I'm trying to take advantage of being in Italy, Spain, Portugal... Experiencing the culture and taking advantage of the time because at some point I won't be a cyclist and I don't want to feel like I missed out. When we went to race in Portugal, I made the long trip – a ferry ride, a taxi – to Lisbon. It took two hours to get there and two hours to get back, but was worth it."
One Axeon team is racing in the GP Industria & Commercio on Sunday. Neilson heads to northern France to race the seven-day Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste.
"My main goal is just to prepare as well as possible for the next level, which will be more challenging in every way. It just doesn't mean winning races, but adapting to Europe,” continued Powless. “US pro nationals is a big goal, the Baby Giro is a big goal, L'Avenir... but every race is an opportunity for me and to help my team-mates get a result, which is equally as important."
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