Starting midway through the field, Evan Huffman blasted his way over the 12-mile course to not only win the Merco Cycling Classic Time Trial but don the yellow leader’s jersey. The 22-year old California Berry Farms/Specialized rider stopped the clock at 24:55, twelve seconds faster than his closest competitor.
“It feels really good.” Huffman said after the race. “I’ve never worn a leader’s jersey before or led a race at this caliber, so I’m petty excited, I think that the team is up for the challenge tomorrow and we’re going to do the best we can to defend the jersey.”
Huffman’s plan was simple, to go hard at the beginning into the headwind before the turnaround on the out-and-back course. With two kilometers to go, he knew that he was besting his time from last year by almost one minute, but he didn’t know that he had the fastest time.
Huffman then waited as rider after rider crossed the finish line and no one was beating his time. He then started to believe it when a top trialist finished 14 seconds back.
“I was hanging out at the car, getting ready to go back when my teammate said, ‘hey you beat (Tom) Zirbel not just by a little’. That’s when I started to believe I may have won.”
“I think it proves that the work I did over the winter made a big difference.” Huffman said of his result. “It proved that my position was really fast and my equipment was good. I’m riding the best stuff, between the Zipp wheels, the Specialized Shiv, you can’t really get a faster bike or equipment so it definitely proves that I’m really strong but also in a fast position.”
With two stages to go, Huffman and his seven teammates will have to work hard to keep the yellow jersey with a slim two second lead especially with time bonuses available at the finish.
“It’s not going to be easy.” Huffman said. “I’m definitely going to have to rely on my teammates a lot and ideally for us, we want to see a small break stay away to take the time bonuses. I would imagine that BISSELL is going to end up controlling the race because they’re going to want a sprint I think. I hope that they have to do a lot of work to control the race and then all the other teams’ sprinters are able to take advantage of that in the last few laps and beat him because there are a lot of other fast guys. We’ll see how it goes.”
Racing continues on Saturday at 2:30pm with the McDonald’s Downtown Grand Prix, 40 laps around a figure-eight course in downtown Merced.