Being Pro: Neilson Powless
Get to know EF's newest fast guy
Team: EF Pro Cycling
Hometown: Sacramento, California
How have your first two years of experience in the WorldTour shaped your career so far?
During my first two years in the WorldTour with Jumbo Visma, I learned a lot both on and off the bike. Everybody has ups and downs when they first move to Europe and join a foreign team. Thankfully, the support staff at Jumbo were welcoming and made the transition smooth. There were a lot of positives I took away from the team, but at the same time I’m excited to join EF this season and race for an American team. Joining EF feels like coming home.
What have you been up to since your podium appearance at the 2019 National Championship road race?
I raced my first Grand Tour at the Vuelta a Espana. I knew I had some pretty good fitness coming from the Tour of Poland, and I raced well there, but I didn’t know what to expect in Spain. It was intense to say the least to race for three weeks, but overall it was an incredible experience. I didn’t have super-high expectations going into it, and keeping (team leader) Primoz safe was the team’s goal. It was a big motivation for the team once Primoz was in the lead, especially for me, and each day it gave us something to accomplish. It kept me mentally in the race day to day. I think that was the key for my first Grand Tour, and to finish with him in the leader’s jersey made it an unforgettable experience.
But after the Vuelta, my season was far from over. I raced the world championships in Yorkshire, then headed off to Italy for a few one-day races. After that, I finished up my season racing in Japan, which was a nice way to end the year. Japan is one of my most favorite races to compete.
What was it like transitioning bikes and equipment with your new team?
At this level, the staff on EF are on it making sure that my bike fit measurements are solid. Although they’re different bikes (Bianchi versus Cannondale), my position on them is the same, Everything is measured to the exact millimeter. This season I’ll be riding disc brakes rather than the rim brakes that Jumbo run. While it does add some difference in maintenance of the bike, especially during a wheel swap, I think in races it’ll present an advantage. I appreciate the thru-axles while cornering and the ability to brake less and maintain the level of momentum that disc brakes offer.
What are you looking forward to most in the upcoming season?
I’m looking forward to my EF experience in 2020. I’ll be able to use my WorldTour experience this season in the EF colors, and being on a team that is primarily American is relaxing and welcoming. EF gives me the ability to train the way I know is productive and works best for me. And, I’m excited to show the team what I can do.
Were you surprised at the physical side of racing after three weeks?
Coming into my first Grand Tour, I didn’t know what to expect. The first week of racing was easy to handle, but the next two weeks seemed to wear on the entire peloton. Eventually, my recovery and nutrition schedule became a major focus, since everybody in the race is at such a great level of fatigue. What surprised me most was how I became focused on just finishing each stage. I believe that was how I was able to continue to race at that level all the way to the finish. The daily support from the Jumbo staff, like post-stage massages and meals, was key. Plus, the amount of traveling between stages took its toll on me as well.
Do you plan on racing any of the alternative races in 2020, like Dirty Kanza and Leadville?
I grew up racing mountain bikes, so off-road events like Kanza and Leadville are an ideal setting to use the combination of the endurance and handling I’ve developed throughout my career. I knew that by joining EF I’d have a chance to get out to those races, but the team hasn’t announced who they’re sending out. While those races are fun, I’d rather spend time training for another Grand Tour.