When asked about his omission at the Maryland Cycling Classic, the 21-year-old said he was too tired from his racing his debut Tour de France to accept a spot.
“It’s a long season for all of us. I’ve had four trips to Europe already and I’m quite tired after the Tour,” Simmons told Cyclingnews. “At some point, you have to say enough is enough.
“I still have to go back for some more one days at the end of the season. I spoke with Jim Miller at USA Cycling, and told him I just don’t have the mental energy left in the year to go, and I didn’t want to take a spot and not be able to do my job.”
Simmons made his presence known at the Tour de France, attacking to make the break of the day on five stages, including two mountainous stages and the day into Saint-Etienne where he helped set-up teammate Mads Pedersen for the win.
It was a massive undertaking for a young professional in his first Tour. He missed a stage victory but earned the most aggressive rider award after stage 19 to Cahors.
“I definitely wanted to empty and give everything I had there, and I think I successfully did that because I haven’t been able to ride a bike very well since,” he said.
“For a first Tour, it was nice. Obviously, you hope to win a stage, but we did everything but that. You know, I want to go back and finish the job now.”
The fatigue hardly showed at the Maryland Cycling Classic, where Simmons was once again out in a long-range breakaway, winning the mountains classification and finishing eighth.
With a strong build and full beard (back after a mid-Tour de France shave), it’s easy to forget that Simmons is only 21 and in his first year post-neo-pro. His first season with Trek-Segafredo in 2020 was marred by insensitive social media posts that earned him a brief suspension from the team.
Since then, he’s let his legs do the talking and has shown himself to be a versatile rider, with an overall win in Tour de Wallonie last season and two mountains classification victories this year at Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour de Suisse.
“This is my third year, it really doesn’t feel like that. Because the first year and a half were really kind of ruined by coronavirus. So I still feel like quite a young pro, even though I have three seasons now. I’ve grown as a rider, and I’m just missing that last few per cent.”
Next season, Simmons hopes to manage his efforts better over the season to stay fresh for the last part of the year when the first unified World Championships will be held in Glasgow, Scotland. That might mean he won’t be on the attack every other stage.
“I always set the goals quite high anyways, so it’s a bit hard to reach them. I want to start my season again with Strade Bianche and go again to the Tour. I think for me those are two places where I have unfinished business and then obviously, I’d like to make it to the Worlds. So we will try and manage the season a bit better and not be so tired this time of year next year.
“I started as a mountain biker, and just to be there with everyone, especially with the national team. I don’t get to race my American friends so much, and it brings us all together.”
The season is not over for Simmons, who will head to the GPs Québec and Montréal before returning to Belgium for the late-season block of one-day races. Trek-Segafredo have the luxury of not having to worry too much about chasing points in the WorldTour promotion/relegation battle, but any of the teams behind the titans Jumbo-Visma, UAE Team Emirates and Ineos Grenadiers have been feeling the heat.
“It’s something that’s on the back of everyone’s mind now and that was definitely part of the decision,” Simmons said. “The team asked me to do these races at the end of the year, and, at the end of the day, they’re the one that pays your salary.”
The fight for points has played with the normal dynamic in pro racing, with only the top 10 riders’ points counting, riders who could get results end up working for the riders who already have points and some teams have been more focussed on stacking the top 10 rather than winning.
“The last six months of the season, [the dynamic] has changed. I think we were never in a panic position, so we haven’t really felt it but you see some of the tactics and strategies employed by the other riders – it’s for sure changed it.”