• Yob Hillewaert

Quinn Simmons and Michael Garrison smash the Tour of Axel for USA Cycling Team

Updated: Apr 6, 2020

Last week, on Sunday the 26th of May 2019, we went to the finish of the last stage of the Tour of Axel (SPIE driedaagse van Axel). We talked to Americans Quinn Simmons (winner of three stages and the GC) and Michael Garrison (fourth on the GC). After outsprinting fellow American Magnus Sheffield in the first stage and winning the time trial, Simmons also won the queen stage. On the cobblestones in Flanders, Simmons attacked with 35 K to go, and no-one could get him back. In Velzeke, Flanders, we talked to the American protagonists.

Quinn Simmons won the last stage after a solo of 35 K - Copyright The Young Peloton

Quinn Simmons (USA) strikes back after Roubaix

You won three out of four stages and the GC, an incredible job.

Quinn: “We only have two stage races over here this summer, so I have to make the most of them. All the guys rode really well to defend my jersey. We showed that we have a really strong team for the Pays de Vaud that starts next week in Switzerland.” [it has finished by now, Quinn won the time trial – Ed.]

You didn’t ride the TT in your yellow jersey here, even though you were already leading the GC.

Quinn: “The organisation didn’t give me a skinsuit, so that would have been a bad idea.” (laughs)

Dishonouring the yellow jersey brings bad luck, as you experienced.

Quinn: “Yeah, I managed to crash in the time trial, which is a bit embarrassing.”

But you still won?

Quinn: “I got up pretty quickly. The injuries doesn’t help to fall asleep easily, but they're part of racing.”

Then today, you finished off a solo on a parcours with a lot of cobblestone sectors. Payback time after Paris-Roubaix? You beat Hidde van Veenendaal, who won Paris-Roubaix.

Quinn: “Maybe a little bit.” (laughs) “I didn’t actually know who was chasing me.”

Quinn Simmons on the last cobbles of the day, the Paddestraat - Copyright The Young Peloton

And coming here, was your aim to win three stages and the GC?

Quinn: “To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t raced since the Ster van Zuid-Limburg in April. I went home to train for three weeks, did a small kermess race and came here.”

After a disappointing Paris-Roubaix, where you finished 20th due to circumstances, you clearly didn’t quit training for too long?

Quinn: “For sure, it was a big disappointment, it was my biggest focus of the year. When I went home, I think it could have gone either way, but I decided to turn that disappointment into the fire.”

Already one week after Roubaix, you won a stage at the Ster van Zuid-Limburg.

Quinn: “I spent some time defending for Michael Garrison, who was leading the GC. He was second going into the last day. The Danish rider William Blume Levy ended up winning the GC. I decided to give a shot at the last stage, so that was a nice surprise victory, a little redemption after Roubaix. Now I'll just keep building up until the World Championships in Yorkshire.”

Michael Garrison finished third in the TT - Copyright Joeri De Coninck

Michael Garrison’s (USA) way into cycling

Michael, it was an amazing three days for the USA cycling team. Your teammate Quinn Simmons won three of the four stages and the GC. You finished third yourself, is there any disappointment or not?

Michael: “Not at all. I was really happy with my ride. My condition has changed a little bit since Roubaix [where he was unbelievably strong - Ed.], but I was really happy with my ride. Quinn has proven he’s one of the best in the world, and it's been fun to work for him. Yesterday I spent some time on the front to keep him fresh, and when you keep Quinn fresh, you know he’s gonna smash it on the last days.”

How was the situation between you and Quinn after Roubaix? At first, he was really angry at you because you had attacked, and he felt unbelievably disappointed about not winning. Did it take a couple of hours until he talked to you again?

Michael: “A couple of days, actually. He was really set on Roubaix, he had been focusing on the race for so long. I think he thought I was trying to attack him, with 80K to go. I was not. Quinn likes things to go his way. He works really hard of course, and he’s earned everything. We’re good friends.”

After riding solo for 80 kilometres and ending up fourth in Paris-Roubaix, you immediately looked where your older brother [Ian Garrison of Hagens Berman Axeon – Ed.] was, because he would come to see you. Did you get to see him?

Michael: “He showed up! We were all back to the cars, and he hopped out of the back. I hadn’t seen him in two months, so it was pretty emotional for me. He was almost crying, and I was almost crying. Our family is so close. My father passed away when I was seven. It’s just me, him and my mom. He’s almost been like a father to me, he taught me so much.”

And you both excel in the same sport.

Michael: (laughs) “He’s riding really well this year. I’m going back in two weeks to do the national championships, and he’s having a midseason rest.”

Michael Garrison in the stars and stripes, next to Tom Couzens and ahead of Ben Squire - Copyright The Young Peloton

How did the two of you end up in cycling?

Michael: “My mom and dad always rode a tandem bike together. When my dad passed away, my mom decided to buy a bike for three. She took us to her home state, Iowa, to a big ride that they used to do every year. I was eight.” (laughs) “But we did it. And I was on the very back, on a course of 800 kilometres in a week of time. I thought I was pedalling." (laughs) "She rode with Ian and me on the back, in honour of my dad, one year after he passed away.”

And from there onwards?

Michael: “Me and Ian always rode mountain bikes around town. I live in Atalanta, which is a big city, so we would ride around. The local vélodrome has a programme for kids which we joined in, and then Ian went to a local race. He didn't win from the start." (laughs) "He started racing more and more, and I followed. When I was sixteen was the first time I came to Belgium.”

Being such a close family, doesn’t it hurt to be abroad so much, away from your mother?

Michael: “It was weird at first, only her being at home. But I call her, and she’s extremely supportive. She has a great group of friends at home, and I know she’s proud.

Ian (Garrison) went into the early break at Liège-Bastogne-Liège this year, but it was his teammate Kevin Vermaerke who finished it off for the Hagens Berman Axeon. Do you know him? He’s only 18 years old.

Michael: “I know Kevin well, we were on the same team last year, Lux Cycling. I did some training with him in January, so I was extremely happy to see that news. It's an amazing team. In Axeon, everyone is selfless and works for each other.”

So going to Axeon would be a good step?

Michael: “Yeah, that’s definitely a big goal. Hagens Berman or SEG, one of those teams if I can choose.”

Is Ian still going to be in the team next year?

Michael: (thinks) “Ahhhm, I’m not sure. He’s working with Trinity Agency now, so I think he may have had some talks with World Tour teams. He's 21, and I think he’s ready to step up.”

The top ten of the GC in the SPIE Internationale Juniorendriedaagse (Tour of Axel) - Copyright Procyclingstats

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