Colby Simmons had often walked into his older brother Quinn’s bedroom and looked up at the national championship jerseys displayed on his wall. He wanted some of his own. Saturday, he got his first. Hours later, Quinn earned his seventh.
Colby,a 15-year-old from Durango, was part of a two-man breakaway with Luke Feurhelm of Iowa during the USA Cycling Amateur Road National Championships junior men’s age 15-16 criterium race in downtown Hagerstown, Maryland. Quinn, 18, was part of a two-man break of his own in the junior men’s age 17-18 race along with New York’s Magnus Sheffield, a rider he knows well from trips to Europe with the USA Cycling junior men’s team.
At the end of the two races, both Simmons boys had the power to hold off their rivals and sprint to national championship victories.
“For years, I’ve been looking in his room and seeing those jerseys and being like, ‘Dang, I want to have that many at some point.’ To have one now, it’s a pretty good feeling,” Colby said.
After watching Colby win, Quinn was eager to back up the performance.
“Oh you know I was never going to let him be the only one to win today,” Quinn said. “It’s super special today to match jerseys. It’s his first, and I’m excited to see what he can do next year.
“For Colby, he started new to road racing this year just like I did last year with really no experience. He’s always been strong enough, but tactically he’s had to figure it out. It’s a big confidence boost for him. We are going to Ireland in two weeks for his first international race, so it’s really good to see. Coming into this weekend, I knew he was gonna win one of the two with the road race or crit.”
With seven laps to go in the 15-16 race, Colby and Feurhelm reeled in early break rider Ian Witkowski and built a 15-second advantage of their own. They took turns pulling at the front during the final laps and built a gap as large as 25 seconds with two laps to go. It would be decided on the final lap between the two leaders, and Colby had the legs to pull away in a sprint finish in the closing yards, as he put his head down and sprinted to the line first.
Colby’s winning time was 46 minutes, 36 seconds. Feurhelm was credited with the same time. Tobias Klein of Virginia was third in 46:48.
Only hours later, Quinn earned sweet redemption a day after disappointment in the road race in which he was trying to defend his junior men’s 17-18 championship from 2018 but finished sixth. Fueled by that disappointment that came only two days after he won the time trial national title, Quinn played race tactics that proved decisive. He and Sheffield gained a gap of as much as 40 seconds before Quinn decided to sit in behind Sheffield and make his rival do the late work.
With a swarm of Lux Development Cycling teammates charging in the chase group behind him, Quinn and Sheffield were caught going into the final two turns, but Quinn still had the legs left for a sprint to the line.
“We had been mobbing all day off the front for a half hour. It was nerve-wracking, and we got caught by the field in the second to last corner,” Quinn said. “It was more of a sprint, but I felt good. I was second wheel in the last corner, and the guy in front of me took it too high. I snuck inside and had a really good sprint.”
Lux teammate Luke Lamperti finished second behind Quinn. Tyler Reynolds was second, and Nick Carter, a Hot Tubes Development teammate of Sheffield, was fourth. Sheffield wound up sixth after his break effort.
It was Quinn’s third junior road cycling national title, as he has now picked up one in each discipline - time trial, road racing and the criterium. Those back up his four junior mountain bike national titles during his career. Next year, he will move up to the under-23 age category.
“Lux went three-for-three this year, same as last year,” Quinn said of his team sweeping the time trial, road race and criterium. “I had never won a crit before, and this is a pretty good first crit to win. To have all three jerseys is another thing to be proud of.”
Colby capped off a strong weekend of racing. He started Thursday with a fourth place in the time trial and he was 10th in Friday’s road race. He was out for revenge in the criterium after he was pulled from last year’s national championships criterium only 15 minutes into the race.
“To be able to come back and win it is pretty big to me after what happened last year,” Colby said. “I knew I could sprint, but I don’t have the strongest sprint. A breakaway ride was how it would be possible for me to win it. It’s a pretty good feeling to be on the front and ride away with another kid and make it work. It was perfect.”
While Colby was proud to slip on his first national championship jersey, his six-time national champion older brother was equally excited to see his younger bring home his first and add an eighth Stars and Stripes jersey to the family of rising road stars.
Colby has been coached by Quinn over the last year. Both have been heavily supported by parents Holly and Scott Simmons during their quick ascension in the road cycling world over the last two years. Colby called it a true family commitment.
“It’ so much fun. My dad, he’s kind of the one who got us into it. We love to beat up on each other, even on training rides together,” Colby said. “We try to one-up each other, and dad and Quinn are so super supportive making this happen. We ride with mom sometimes, too, and it’s lots of biking and lots of fun.”
During Saturday’s road race, Quinn was a marked rider all day, as other teams prioritized preventing Quinn from going to the front of the race. Early breaks went off the front, and each one was reeled in by the strong Lux Cycling Development Team. But Quinn was never able to bridge the final large gap to four of his teammates, as rival teams refused to help him get to the front.
“I’ve been marked all year, to some extent,” Quinn said. “When you’re in Europe and everyone follows you around, there’s also five other really good guys getting followed around, and the courses are hard enough you can kind of get some separation. Here, I heard directors tell their guys that anyone was allowed to win who wasn’t me. Basically, I got in a situation where we had a couple guys on our team up the road. We thought other teams would chase because they had no one up there, but they turned to me and basically said that as long as I wasn’t in the break, they were going to let it roll. I was locked up, and I spent two hours basically trying to get across. I can only be marked and attack so many times, but if nobody is going to pull with me, I can’t drag across other guys when we have four of our own up the road.”
Often targeted for his competitive nature and elite form amongst his peers, Quinn’s Lux team is also subject to hard feelings from other teams for their dominant performances across the U.S. Quinn could only laugh after Saturday’s race, as his teammates swept the podium, just as Lux had done in the time trial. Gianni Lamperti won the 17-18 road race title in 3:04:21. Seth Callahan was second and Logan McClain was third, while Lux’s Jared Scott was fourth, all in the same time as Lamperti. Quinn was sixth, 1:46 behind his teammates.
After the race, Quinn took off his Stars and Stripes painted helmet and placed it on Gianni Lamperti’s head, thrilled to see his friend and teammate claim the championship. Now, Lamperti will join Quinn at the world championships in September in Yorkshire, England.
“Gianni has always been there to help me, especially last year when I was just starting,” Quinn said. “Obviously, I wanted it, but if anyone else was going to get it, ideally it was him.”
Quinn will not compete in mountain bike nationals next month in Winter Park, as he will be at a road race in Austria. Next year, he will be eligible for the under-23 category, but his potential national championship schedule will be decided by his pro racing schedule, as he hopes to join a team in Europe full time next season. If he does compete at nationals, he said he is likely to skip under-23 racing and join the pro field. But he’s ready and eager to test himself against older competition in under-23 races across the world next season.
“Going to the pros and U23 races, it’s a big reset because nobody cares what you did as a junior,” Quinn said. “You have to prove yourself again. I’ve always done well in an underdog role. Last year, no one knew who I was, and I was able to sneak away and then they all realized too late that I wasn’t gonna come back. Next year, I get to be back down at the lower end of the talent pool again, fighting my way up and starting the cycle all over again. It’s motivational for me. And, other than worlds, I’ve accomplished all I’ve wanted to as a junior.”
Next year, Colby will replace Quinn on the Lux team. First, he will compete at mountain bike nationals next month with his Summit National Team. Last fall, he won the freshman level state championship in the Colorado Cycling League high school mountain bike season.
Colby has already received some support from Lux during the road season, and he is eager to have a full-time ride with Lux going into 2020.
“It’s so sweet for me,” Colby said. “It’s exciting to know that I’m gonna have the support that I need to do the best I can. Having Quinn has obviously helped me a lot with getting my name out there. I’m having such a good time on the bike.”