Larry Warbasse began his fifth season with A2GR Citroën just days ago in Marseille, France and said it is a big year for the team but also for him. It’s a contract year for the Michigan native, who now calls France home, so Warbasse is on the hunt for an aggressive start. You could say he may be upping the intensity, much like the ferocious wolverine mascot of his college alma mater at the University of Michigan.
But while the nasty wolverine is a lone predator, Warbasse is all about teamwork. He’s been on the international level of pro cycling for 11 years, all but two of those seasons on the WorldTour level. His two biggest individual achievements on the results tally came in 2017 when he won a stage at the Tour de Suisse and then was crowned US road race national champion.
Now five years on, Warbasse is spurred on to help his team improve from a ranking as the 16th best team in the rankings and help leaders Benoit Cosnefroy, Greg Van Avermaet and Oliver Naesen to more success. His demeanor isn’t about personal glory.
“It’s an important year for the team. It’s the first year of this new cycle of points and everything, so a lot of changes in cycling this year. So for us, it’s really important to get off to a good start,” Warbass told Cyclingnews.
“Guys like Greg [Van Avermaet] and Oliver [Naesen], they haven’t had as good as seasons as they were hoping for the last couple of years. For a lot of guys on the team, it’s a contract year. I’ve seen a lot of really motivated guys this training camp, and I think it’s going to be a good year. So I’m excited to see what we can do for the year.”
The Michigan native lives full-time in Nice, France and said he had a solid winter of training, which included a five-day trip riding on the largest Greek island, Crete. Warbasse started the season this week at Grand Prix Cycliste de Marseille and will line up at Etoile de Bessèges along with heavy hitters Van Avermaet, Oliver Naesen and Cosnefroy.
He then gets a true “home race” at Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var, Feb. 17-19, where “the last stage goes past my apartment,” and with a few more races scattered in the spring, will focus on Paris-Nice and the Giro d’Italia.
“Paris-Nice is the first big objective of the season. I’m looking forward to that,” he told Cyclingnews. “And then I’ll do Sanremo and the Giro for the first part of the year. My first five months of racing are pretty jam-packed. I might do all the Ardennes with Benoît [Cosnefroy], our leader. I really enjoy racing with him, just a great leader and racer. He’s one of the big favourites for the Ardennes. For us, that’s really important.”
Cosnefroy had a number of podiums in Europe last year, including Amstel Gold Race, but only a single victory near the end of the campaign at Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec. Warbasse thinks the team will improve this season and hopes to be part of another Grand Tour after May.
This year’s Giro d’Italia will be the fifth appearance for Warbasse, who has also raced the Vuelta a España four times. A start at the Tour de France is one of the few career achievements missing from his resume.
“It’s definitely something I aim for. It’s really important to do the Tour de France before the end of my career, either this year or next year, because otherwise, it’s getting a bit late. I think if the Giro goes really well, there’s always a possibility. So I’m just gonna really focus on the Giro for the first part of the year. That’s definitely one of the most important things on the bucket list,” he said about the Tour.
Another stage race victory and a USPro title would also be on that list. He calls the Tour de Suisse solo stage victory his best memory on the bike and added that the stars-and-stripes title was a bonus.
“It was never really a big goal of mine. I never was like, I need to be national champion or something like that. It wasn’t until after I won the race that I realized how big a deal it was,” Warbasse admitted.
“As a cyclist, it really boosted my image, not just in the US, but also in Europe, you know, wearing the national championships jersey. I didn’t realize how big of a deal that was until after I had done it. And it really did a lot for me as a rider. So I’m really, really grateful that I was able to have that experience, and I would love to be able to do it again. So that would be that would also be an objective for me.”
As a teenager racing in the US, Warbasse began at the Continental level with the BMC-Hincapie Development Team, where he gained international racing experience and grabbed the attention of the US National team. In 2011, Warbasse finished fifth in the U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège and a pair of third-place finishes in time trial stages at UCI races, Vuelta Independencia Nacional and Le Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux. Across 2011 and 2012 at the U23 road nationals, he finished in the top 10 of the road race and time trial both years, the highest placing fourth in the ITT.
Many of his former US-based teammates close to his age at the devo team and with BMC Racing Team are now retired from road racing, riders like Brent Bookwalter, Tejay van Garderen, Taylor Phinney and even Peter Stetina.
“A lot of the guys I started with, they’re not in the peloton anymore, so it makes me feel a little bit old sometimes. But, you know, that’s part of part of the sport,” Warbasse, now 32, said.
“I definitely think the sport has changed a lot in the last 10 years, and it’s gotten really a lot more intense. You have to be switched on 110%, pretty much 365 days a year. And it didn’t use to be that way. It used to be that you could spend a lot of time in the US if you were an American, then go back and forth. I know a lot of guys back on BMC in the days, they would spend the majority of time in the US, and they fly over for races and then go home.
“Now, we can’t sacrifice that, even just that little bit of training, because of the jetlag. It’s like you have to be based 100% in Europe now. You really have to establish yourself, and you can’t really do the whole back-and-forth thing as much as you used to be able to. And I think that’s also why a lot of guys, you know, stopped earlier than maybe normal.”
He’s game to keep racing on the road at the WorldTour level with renewed ferocity. All the big races are near his back door, after all, including the biggest race on the calendar.
“I would rather go to the Tour de France than try for a second national title, but we’ll see. We’ll see what happens.”