In early January the new Hagens Berman U-23 Cycling Program met for the first time at Herriott Sports Performance (HSP), and I got the opportunity to spend time with the managers and two of the athletes.
The first athlete interview was with Eamon Lucas (Franck) from Pacific Grove, CA. 21 year old (race age 22) Eamon is the veteran of the team, and this will be his last year as an Under 23 (aka U23). Eamon is a tall guy who moves with confidence, and although it was apparent that he was the alpha dog in the room (he describes himself as “an intense person on and off the bike”), I was struck by his polite and respectful manner. I can’t remember a conversation that included as many “yes sirs” as the one I had with Eamon. As coach David Richter said, “Eamon is your classic gentle giant. He’s polite, respectful & motivated to lead.”
Cycling defines Eamon. His father was an avid cyclist, and when Eamon was a youngster his dad was in a serious cycling accident. The timing of his dad’s recovery from that accident coincided with that year’s Tour de France. The two of them watched it together and Eamon was hooked: Eamon started racing bmx at age 5 or 6 and eventually progressed to road racing at age 16.
Most recently Eamon raced with California Giant during the 2011-13 cycling seasons. Eamon showed up on the radar for the new HB U23 squad, and he was contacted by the HB U23 managers who proposed a new opportunity that could bring Eamon a step closer to cycling with the sharks. Eamon’s big dreams align with his intensity: His individual objectives 2014 include winning the U23 national road race, the U23 Paris-Roubaix, and being selected for the U23 world team (he was on the 2010 worlds team), all of which hopefully lead him to securing a pro contract. Impressive personal goals, but as the elder statesman of the HB U23 team, he clearly understands the importance of his role as a team leader, and that teamwork is completely intertwined with realizing his personal goals. During our conversation he emphasized that he aims to leverage his racing experience and experience in Europe to help his teammates and provide guidance where he can. He knows many of his teammates from previous races, and said “we are an exciting young team full of energy.”
One of my standard questions for young racers is about how they balance school and racing. In Eamon’s case, he is done with high school and taking a break from the educational pathway so he can completely focus on his love and passion for cycling. He is optimistic that he will have a “legitimate job” as a pro racer in the near future. He says he has gotten hints that a pro contract could happen, and although he says his four-year stint with the USA Cyclng development program has opened up his network to key decision-makers, he recognizes that “at the end of the day, results are the only thing that matter.”
And like every other young racer I’ve talked with, he was clear about the impact racing in Europe has had on him. “Racing in Europe is a kick in the head, and the results only come after getting that experience and sticking with it.” He added, “if it were easy everyone would do it.”
Who are Eamon’s cycling heros?
Phillipe Gilbert was the first name that Eamon mentioned. “Gilbert is always swinging for the fences, and he is friendly off the bike.”
Fabian Cancellara also has hero status for Eamon: “All class and pure muscle.”
At a more personal level, Eamon values his relationship with Larry Nolan, who as the director of Specialized junior development worked to help develop Eamon’s talent, took him to races, and has opened numerous doors for Eamon.
Hopefully those doors lead to Europe and a pro contract and we’ll be seeing Eamon’s “intensity” creating some excitement in the pro ranks in the next few years!