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Inside the USA Cycling National Team at the Amgen Tour of California: Sam Boardman and Travis McCabe

By: Kelly Fox  May 16, 2019

With its increasing and evolving status in the sport, the Amgen Tour of California this year is also returning to its past — at least for American riders.

Travis McCabe (Denver, Colo.; Floyd’s Cycling) and Sam Boardman (Encinitas, Calif.; Wildlife Generation) are competing for the USA Cycling National Road Team. They respectively represent the experience and youthfulness of the squad. It's the first time USA Cycling has fielded a team in the race since its 2007..

The seven-rider squad represents four different trade teams. It's a mix of one veteran rider providing guidance and six young riders gaining early career experiences in North America's most prestigious race. The 14th annual event takes the field from Sacramento to Pasadena during a week of racing. The field includes 13 WorldTour squads, five Pro Continental teams as well as the USA Cycling National Team.

McCabe, 30, is the 2017 US Pro Criterium National Champion and had three stage wins combined in 2018 at the Colorado Classic and Tour of Utah. He won a stage earlier this season at the Tour de Langkawi. Boardman, 23, placed 10th last season in the individual time trial at the National Championships. He joins the rest of the team, all ages 21-24.

Michael Sayers and Michael Creed, the team's managers are both former pro riders and have years of experience directing young cyclists.

"Being on the national team has the patriotism to it and it's an opportunity to showcase some young American talent," said McCabe. "This is really the only opportunity we get. It's a big deal. I came into the sport a little later and I never had the opportunity to do the U23 or junior development programs. This is actually the first time for me to wear the red, white and blue. I've been a national champion before but actually have never worn the national colors before.

As the most experienced rider on the team, McCabe will be the squad's road captain.

"I'll take care of those guys, keeping them calm and not letting them worry too much about things that don't really matter," said McCabe, who's competing in the Tour of California for the fifth time. "I have some experience here. It's easy to let it get in your head. You're racing against your idols, guys you grew up watching the sport like (Peter) Sagan, guys who are here prepping for the Tour de France."

Sayers is a two-time member of the US World Championship Team member and a pro for more than 14 years. He has been the Sports Director for BMC Racing Team, the USA Elite World Championship Team and the USA Elite Olympic Road Team.

Creed is the current director for UCI Continental U23 development team, Aevolo. He was the sports director of Team SmartStop in the 2014 and 2015 seasons before being appointed head coach of USA Paralympics' paracycling program in November 2015.

"We are going to look at six or seven individual races and approach it from that standpoint," said Sayers, who also competed in the Tour of California. "At this point, the number one objective is the experience. The number two objective is to give them the support and leadership they need. The number three objective would be to help them achieve a result that could very possibly push them to the next level."

Sayers hopes the 14th annual event will follow its past. It has offered many opportunities for young riders to develop their careers en route to contract for top level teams competing in Grand Tours an other prestigious events.

"This race has historically produced American riders on a Continental-type team to a World Tour team," said Sayers. "There have been many of those examples and we feel like this race and with these riders we could possibly have one or two who could make that leap if they have a good week."

"This race is going to be a little bit different than a normal race we might do in Europe,” Sayers continued. We are clearly asking these riders to stretch themselves physically based on the competition. As long as the guys show up and as long as they give 100 percent of their effort and they do the best that they can do, there really is no failure."

Boardman, competing in the Tour of California for the first time, appreciates his opportunity. He's finally not watching it on television and wondering what it might be like.

"It makes it more exciting to say you're racing along with the best in the world,” Boardman said. "For me, it adds that excitement factor to racing. In local races or in other races in the United States, you really don't get to touch that level of competition. But here, for the first time in my life, it's actually happening. I am lining up against Tour de France stage winners and World Champions."

Riding for the national team for the first time, Boardman and his teammates were quickly reminded of its status during a training ride.

"It hard to root for a trade team whose brand name is the name of the team and it can change from one year to the next," he said. "But when were on the bike path doing our spin, people were just cheering, 'USA, USA, go USA.' It was just random people. You don't hear that for a trade team. But being on a national team, it's something everyone can understand."

"It hard to root for a trade team whose brand name is the name of the team and it can change from one year to the next,but when were on the bike path doing our spin, people were just cheering, 'USA, USA, go USA.' It was just random people. You don't hear that for a trade team. But being on a national team, it's something everyone can understand." -Sam Boardman

McCabe concurred. But he also stressed just the importance of the experience.

"For the young guys, it's a big deal to race against those guys," said McCabe, whose 28th in 2016 was his best Tour of California general classification finish. "But also to maybe get a result. It could be a career-changing opportunity. So, it can be a lot of pressure but also you have to put it into perspective and not stress about it too much. Hopefully, I will be able to keep them calm. Everyone meshes really well; we all know each other already, so there's not that pent-up energy you sometimes feel.

Despite Sayers' optimism, he isn't overlooking the difficulty of the event. It’s the most difficult route in the race's history.

"We are putting them in a situation that they are going to have to really stretch physically,” said Sayers. "So I don't really feel it's appropriate to have a 'if you do this, you are a success, if you do this you are not.' They are playing with house money. If it goes well for them, it could be very big. Not just in the short term, but in the long term.

"If they don't do too well as individuals, then they are going to have to deal with themselves on a personal level. We'll try held them navigate with that. But they don't necessarily lose. For us, we are just giving them a platform to succeed. They are going to gain experience. They are going to learn to what it's like a race against the top guys in the world.”

In yesterday's first stage, McCabe sprinted to a second place finish, inches behind Peter Sagan. Read the full report here:

This year’s National Team presence at the Tour of California was made possible with the additional support of JustBARE Chicken and VolvoUSA.

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For more information, please contact Kelly Fox at or Guillermo Rojas at