Inside the National Team at the Amgen Tour of California: A Family Affair
It’s not often you get to watch your 21 year old race against World Tour riders let alone stand on the podium with them, but that is exactly what the parents of three of the U.S. National Team riders have gotten to experience at the 2019 Amgen Tour of California.
Stan Hoehn can recall the day four years ago when his then-teenage son Alex rode his first out-of-state race. It was a junior event at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna during the Sea Otter Classic and the entire family visited from Kansas.
The memory is fresh because the elder Hoehn returned to the raceway Wednesday to watch his son and his six teammates from the USA Cycling National Team begin Stage 4 of the Amgen Tour of California at the racetrack.
The previous day, the young rider, age 21 and who competes for Aevolo, became the squad's third straight cyclist to animate the 14th annual race with a long breakaway against many of the sport's best riders. With his sustained effort until the waning mile, Hoehn assumed the King of the Mountain leadership. He maintained his one-point advantage over Frenchman Remi Cavagna (Deceuninck-QuickStep), who won Stage 3 after Stage 4 of the week-long race from Sacramento to Pasadena.
The senior Hoehn, a physician, arrived with one of his daughters from Kansas City at the race in time for Stage 3 from Stockton to Morgan Hill.
"We didn't expect to drop into town and have that happening," Hoehn said. "When we landed, he (Alex) was already off the front. We were just hoping he would make it to TV time, you know? He certainly made it to TV time and a litter farther."
With the USA Cycling National Team often in the lead group of the first four stages of the weeklong race, the squad has received substantial national television exposure and its share of support of family support. Michael Hernandez, 21, of Clermont, Fla.; Hoehn's teammate on Aevolo, also had the support his father, Izzy, at the race but he left Wednesday.
"It's awesome. In my first year of the race, my mom came to every single race, just to be supportive," said Hernandez. "It was hard for her when I started doing bigger races because of the traveling, she couldn't come to everything."
Like several teammates, the Amgen Tour of California is the most prestigious race Hernandez has competed in during his young career.
"Any time there's a live stream, she always watches it," Hernandez said. "This is the biggest race I've ever done, so just having the support means the world to me. I am still trying to put on a show for them."
Hernandez, who was part of the long breakaway in Stage 2, said his mother also had another reason for attending the race.
"She wanted to meet the big pros as much as I did," Hernandez said, chuckling. "I know my girlfriend did, too."
Hoehn's support is also based on his family's vast interest in cycling, for fitness and competition. Stan Hoehn is a competitive Masters rider. Earlier in his career, Alex rode for his father's team.
"I'm lucky in that for most of his bike races, I get to follow him around the country and the world, so I am blessed in that way," said the elder Hoehn. "It's always been a thrill since he was a kid doing Cat. 3 races. It's the same level of emotion as when he was winning races as a Cat. 3. But obviously, it's a bigger stage now. It's so special and we appreciate the opportunity. This is how we have always supported each other."
The rest of the Hoehn family knew of Alex's success at the Amgen Tour of California but they weren't able to attend the race.
"My wife and my other two daughters would be here if they weren't just finishing school this week," Stan Hoehn said. "We love traipsing around and seeing the world on back of Alex's race expeditions. It's very fun for us and obviously we had a great couple of days."
Michael Creed, the USA Cycling Team assistant director, encourages family participation. He received similar support before his career expanded as a professional and he was often racing internationally.
"For the kids, it's a passion," said Creed. "I think it's good for families to share it. They should always come to races, for sure."
Teammate, Tyler Stites’ parents also came out for the first day of racing on Sunday, May 12, which was also mother’s day. Stites’ mother Rane Clements, got an extra special gift when she got to watch her son in the breakaway for 110 kilometers, coming away with the Best Young Rider jersey for the day.
At the end of the day, the support that riders get from their family and friends can make the difference when enduring the grueling hours in the saddle. The team behind the team is the backbone of the sport and no jersey compares to knowing your family is cheering for you win or lose.
This year’s National Team presence at the Tour of California was made possible with the additional support of JustBARE Chicken and VolvoUSA.
Visit USACycling.org for more information on the athletes, events and membership programs, and follow @USACycling across all channels for the latest on Team USA. For more information on the 2019 Tour of California, visit: https://www.amgentourofcalifornia.com/