Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Getting to Know: Adam De Vos

Standing at the start/finish line barriers in Richmond for the World Championships, a woman was standing just down from my girlfriend and I that was yelling quite loudly. We were a bit perplexed but through a game of telephone on the barriers, we learned she was the mother of one of the riders in the race. Which rider? Well the start was held up by a couple of minutes and a Canadian rider was circling back and forth. Seeing as my on the ground experience up until then was slim to none, I grabbed for my start list and saw that #150 was Adam De Vos. I thought nothing more of it at the time and proceeded about my day. That is until the finish of the race when De Vos came across with the first group of riders behind winner Kevin Ledanois to finish the race 9th, which is just the fourth time a Canadian has finished in the top 10 of the World U23 RR since its inception in 1996.

Adam on the final turn onto Broad Street
Photo: PedalMag/Ethan Glading
De Vos was not surprised about his mom making herself known at the start line. "She is good at making friends while spectating and I think she had the whole Eritrean contingent cheering for me by the end of the race. My parents are very supportive and are the reason I've been able to pursue cycling over the years." De Vos, hailing from Victoria, BC, rise in the sport has been fairly quick by some standards. He only began to race bikes as a high school senior after a decade of swimming but in just over a year since his first race in June 2010, he was selected for the Canadian Junior Worlds Team in Copenhagen, where he was the team's top finisher in 65th (main peloton finish). Most riders that start racing their senior year of high school don't end up getting a World's spot in less than 12 months but thanks to swimming, he already had a knowledge base for training to pick from.

De Vos, like many young Canadians, began making the yearly trek to Southern California in 2012 and with Trek/Red Truck he had some good results in regional events such as 2nd in the Tour of Walla Walla (Canadian climber Rob Britton was in 4th place in that race) and in 2013, the Canadian National team took him over for some wonderful, kick-you-in-the-gut racing in Europe including the spring Nations Cups (Ronde van Vlaanderen and La Cote Picarde), the U23 Liege-Bastogne Liege and what is a right of passage for anyone that goes over, kermesse racing.

Since he was just a couple of years into the sport at this point, De Vos was quite green and self-admittedly a rider that gives it a go on nearly any type of course, 2013 and 2014 were scarce with big time results but were filled with some promising rides. When asked what type of a race that he prefers, the Canuck says, "My favourite thing would be a really really hard day on the last day of a stage race, for example the Gila Monster in the Tour of the Gila, where you have stage race dynamics but also people are really going for it. Some people outside the top ten are maybe throwing in big moves trying to move up and maybe a favourite doesn't have it and cracks big time. Those are the races I really like." The Gila Monster stage is the final stage of the Tour of the Gila and is traditionally where the race explodes. De Vos' self-assessment is spot on as a gauge for his progression as a U23. In 2013, he was a respectable 33rd in a group with soon to be Trek Factory pro Kiel Reijnen while in 2014 with H&R Block, he elevated that finish to 24th. He has similar results in races such as the Cascade Classic, Redlands Classic and San Dimas Stage Race where he would save his best for last.

This year, he stayed with H&R Block as they made the move to the continental ranks and hired on Chris Baldwin as a coach. Baldwin was a two-time US Time Trial Champion in 2003 & 2005 and one of the most consummate professionals during his time in a career that spanned 15 seasons. With Balwin behind him, De Vos implemented some more gym focused work into his pre-season followed some specific efforts that had him coming in hot in March and April.

De Vos' time trial saw notable improvement in 2015
Photo: Oak Bay Bicycles
The work paid dividends as De Vos was 4th in San Dimas and soon after, he followed it up with 5th in Redlands, where he was less than a minute down on winner Phil Gaimon but ahead of fellow Canadian Mike Woods, Chris Horner and Lachlan Morton. He would then appear once again on the Gila Monster stage, where this time he made the lead group and against some hitters including Woods, Horner, Daniel Jaramillo and Rob Britton, De Vos finished 5th on the stage. His performance garnered him 7th overall and best U23 rider ahead of the much touted Tao Geoghegan Hart and James Oram.

When asked about the media not paying him any mind for cracking the top 10 of one of America's hardest stage races, De Vos was nonchalant saying, "It's kind of frustrating to see an article per week on someone's asthma condition but there is not much I can do about that." Zero mentions by either Cyclingnews or Velonews the whole season made De Vos an unknown quantity to many outside of Canada.

With the Canadian U23s on the hunt for UCI points to qualify spots for Richmond Worlds, De Vos went down to the Pan Am Championships in Mexico and instead of lining up for both U23 events, he and Alex Cataford went into the Elite Men's RR. In one of his first big one-day races and on a challenging course, De Vos went deep for a 5th place and 25 UCI points. So deep in fact that he was ill back in the hotel room due to the effort. Thanks to De Vos and fellow countryman Ben Perry, Canada was able to qualify 4 spots for the U23 RR in Richmond. To cap off his brilliant spring, De Vos then went 13th at the Winston-Salem Classic (which, self-admittedly, could have been better but lacked experience) as well as the KOM prize at the Philly Classic, after spending the majority of the day out front with hometown boy Robin Carpenter.

The British Columbia native had mixed emotions on the Worlds build-up, saying "Yeah from last year (having) zero spots at world championships to this year (having) four and the top 10 finish is a pretty massive improvement. It's a shame the national team didn't send us to the Nations Cups or l'Avenir as I think we could have done something good there; getting some more race days in against world class U23s would have helped massively to be more prepared for worlds. One big benefit was that we were able to do the Quebec World Tour races for prep; they were such a high level the Worlds road race felt easy in comparison."

While the World Tour races might have been good prep, De Vos wasn't feeling like a top 10 finish was within reach heading into Worlds. "If I had felt good leading up to the race and felt like I was on super form I would have been aiming for that (a top 10 finish). Truth be told, I felt like garbage the whole week before so I was kind of metering my expectations and was not too confident heading in. After getting through a few laps and still not feeling great, I started coming around. The final two laps, when guys were coming apart, I was feeling great so I started thinking I had a shot."

The metering of expectations seemed to do the trick for De Vos as he stayed fresh for the finale and survived the pile-up on Libby Hill on the final lap when Nathan Van Hooydonck took a tumble. With Kevin Ledanois away, De Vos was grimacing for life as he hung onto the back of the lead chase group on Governor Street and was trying to be the glue to bring back the small group of Moscon, Consonni and Turgis but to no avail. De Vos was North America's best finisher in the U23 race by nearly 20 spots in the first North American Worlds in 12 years and was the cherry on the cake for is a Canadian resurgence in international cycling.

What is next for De Vos? In the off-season from September to December, he is a full-time student at the University of Victoria studying Microbiology, which he describes as a nice diversion but doesn't really cut into his training time. For now, De Vos is remaining quiet on his destination for 2016 but he had this to say. "Next year I'll have a really, really solid program. It's going to include racing in Europe which I haven't done in a few years so I'm really happy about that too." An announcement should be forthcoming.

The bigger question is where De Vos is going to fit in as he continues to develop as a rider. He has talents in stage races, especially as he works on his time trial skills, but seems to save his best for the latter parts of those races. This tactic can work sometimes but he will need to prove himself in race like Gila (again), Tour de Beauce and then going to Europe. He could see himself as an option in hilly one-day races after his Worlds breakthrough or an opportunistic stage hunter looking for KOM points. It is highly suggested that you highlight De Vos' name for the coming years.

For those of you that are not, you can follow Adam on Twitter, @A_de_Vos

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