Slipstream Sports is proud of its commitment to developing the next generation of riders, through the Chipotle-First Solar Continental team and the Slipstream-Craddock junior development team. The fruits of this effort are increasingly visible on the Garmin-Barracuda team, most recently at the Amstel Gold Race where development team alumni Alex Howes and Raymond Kreder rode in the day’s main break.
For Americans Howes and Jacob Rathe, having the development program experience is helping them in their neo-pro season.
“There is no way I would be here this year if it wasn’t for the development team,” said Rathe.
“Being able to do races like the Tour de Langkawi and the Volta Portugal were vital for me to develop into a WorldTour rider quickly. Team Director Chann Mcrae doesn’t just want to help his riders get results so they can go to the WorldTour, but wants to challenge them so that they will be ready when it happens.”
Multiple years on the Continental team gave Howes a ramping-up effect. “The development team did a good job of slowly increasing the level and intensity of racing. By my final year, I was able to handle two tough 10-day stage races and race well in both of them.”
Despite the experience gained racing on the Continental team, the difference between that and the big show is still going to be significant. When asked what is most apparent, both immediately said the speed of everything is much faster.
“The speed these guys can maintain on the long climbs is incredible. Especially after racing 200km!” said Howes.
“There haven’t been too many surprises, but the main difference is how fast things happen in the races,” said Rathe. “Decisive moments can happen much more quickly.”
An additional aspect for Rathe and Howes, compared to a rider like Raymond Kreder, is adapting to living in Europe full-time.
“The transition has gone well so far,” said Howes. “It was a little rough to start with all the details that had to be worked out but that was expected. Now, I’m feeling quite happy and content in Girona and I always look forward to spending time there. We have a good crew of young riders there and we do our best to look out for each other.”
The young riders have already made their marks in races, with Raymond helping older brother Michel to three wins so far this season, in addition to riding in the break at Amstel Gold.
“My highlight has to be riding in the break at Amstel Gold with Raymond Kreder,” said Howes. “It was long tough day but I had a blast being off the front of my first Classics race.”
Racing a Classic was also Rathe’s highlight of his first pro season. “No question about it, riding the Tour of Flanders was the highlight. It has been my favorite race for a long time and the whole experience was surreal.”
More photos from recent races: