Interview with Travis McCabe of UHC Cycling
Travis McCabe is an American cyclist racing for the UnitedHealthCare Pro Cycling team. The sprinter from Prescott, Arizona was the 2017 USA Cycling National Criterium Champion and is in his second season with the UHC team.
We had a chance to catch up with Travis at the Colorado Classic, following his big General Classification victory at the Tour of Utah last week. We chatted about his season so far and his goals going forward. Travis went on to win Stage 4 at the Colorado Classic and helped the UHC team take the 1-2 in the GC.
Interview with Travis McCabe
Give me a lead up to your year? How you came into this year feeling? What’s going on at home, etc?
A big thing for me I think was that I’m from Tucson, Arizona and have been there for the last nine years. I was born and raised in Arizona and this year we moved out to Denver in November to start off the year. It’s a whole new scenario, you have to learn the roads, the right coffee shops – where to get groceries, the bars. Just moving to a new city takes time to figure it out. My fiancé – at the time girlfriend – got a job as a nurse, so we moved out here and there’s all that going on. It took a little bit of a time to get adjusted to living up in Denver, there’s the altitude and the winter, because in Tucson we had sunshine all year around. That took a little bit of time.
I think as far as the team goes, the only thing I really did differently was I tried a new position. I tried to go to smaller cranks, I tried to be more efficient on the bike and I think that really screwed me up. It didn’t work out well, because Neuromuscularly, I was so used to my old position. I spent 8 years racing and riding in one position and it just worked for me. I thought maybe if I switched it up I’d be more efficient and aerodynamic and I can save power. Instead I never quite got comfortable and had all these issues with my back and I wasn’t putting out the power I was used to. I did that for like three months in the off-season, pretty much all the way up to Nationals. At Nationals, I was like “this isn’t working” so I went back to my old position and Voila. It’s kind of like back to being normal again.
What goals did you have going into this season?
As an athlete, every year I sit down with our coaches and I write my goals. I have one-year goals, two-year goals and five-year long-term goals. The five-year goals haven’t really changed too much, and slowly I’m reaching that which I’ve wanted to do. The goals this year were to podium at Tour of California, a National Championship and a win at Utah and Colorado as well as racing really well in Europe. That’s the motivation and what gets you up every day. Especially after big training days and stuff it’s important. I wasn’t really hitting any of the goals until Utah, so it’s been hard mentally. It makes you think you’re doing everything wrong, but you’re really doing everything right and just things just don’t play out your way. It took me a while to just keep chugging along and staying focused and reevaluating everything and being like “I still have a chance, this racing season isn’t over, let’s go out with a bang and let’s get a result” It’s paid off and it’s been cool.
You’ve finished 2nd overall at this race twice before, how would you feel about another 2nd place finish this year?
I hate losing, I always hate losing. At this point I would take it. We’ve had such a successful Tour of Utah. Today was just like Cannondale threw everything they had at us today, and we responded professionally and rode out of our minds to keep Gavin and Sergei there. It worked out. I’d obviously like to win tomorrow especially since the race is sponsored by UHC. Last year, I got two second places and a third, so I’m used to it but I don’t like it. It would be awesome to win tomorrow and take the sprinters jersey, go 1-2 in the GC and just party afterwards and celebrate.
Talk about the level of Difficulty at Tour of Utah?
They want to make it as hard as possible. They do a great job of making it America’s hardest stage race. Every year they want to make it hard. It’s great prep for the Vuelta, so you get the World Tour teams coming out. These are guys that are riding well and want to come in and get an extra bit of race speed going into the Vuelta. So that makes it even harder. This year was no exception. It’s like 10,000 feet of climbing every day, 7 days long, in the heat and altitude. It just wears on you. Then you have three days to recover and you come here and you race again. A lot of guys struggle with the quick turnaround in races, it’s hard that’s for sure.
With gravel riding taking off, a lot of races are incorporating gravel sections in to their races, do you guys do anything different to the bikes to prepare?
We got to test out the new Maxxis 28cc tires in Europe after encountering some gravel last season and having to adjust our set up. We never flatted, and Europe we were racing cobbles, Dutch cobbles, Belgium cobbles, gravel and it was pouring rain every day. It was the worst weather you could ask for. I think we punctured maybe 1-2 tires, and we never broke a wheel. We hardly ever flatted. I think going with the wider tires played a big role in that, it doesn’t really slow down the speed or anything it’s more less the rolling resistance. With the gravel and rain, we’ll run a little lower tire pressure. Other than that, we don’t really change gearing – maybe different chain lube. I think today’s set-up was the same we ran all through Tour of Utah where we encountered some gravel.
Do you have any race day superstitions?
Not really. That’s something you may want to ask the mechanics, then they may say “ah man Travis is the worst.” I know one thing that annoyed them – I kept changing my stems. I’d go back and forth between a 120 and 130 at the beginning of the year. As far as like the bike goes, I have faith and I’m comfortable in what they do so I don’t stress about that. In the preparation side, I have my coffee things. I hand grind my coffee in the morning, I have my coffee set-up which is the one thing that’s constant when you are traveling all the time. Other than that, I have my pennant, my mom always says keep it up so I have that in the back of my head. Rubber side down, keeping it up, that’s about it. I don’t want to say I’m too superstitious. I think winning a race or losing a race comes down to yourself.
How long of a stretch did you do in Europe this year? What are some of the challenges with that?
We did two months straight. The one thing you kind of miss racing over there, you kind of miss your privacy. There was 8 of us together all the time. The only privacy you get is when you go for a ride by yourself. The majority of the time you are all together. We cook together, we clean together, we lived in the house together. We trained, we raced together. We kind of got on each other’s nerves by then and we kept trying to crack each other – trying to figure out ways to break one person because we thought that was funny. The food I always miss. I missed Mexican food a lot, I missed just the convenience of it. There was a while we didn’t have a car so we were stuck in the house. We had a grocery store 800 meters up the road, so we’d walk to the grocery store and get groceries. They don’t nearly have as much over in Europe. America is so convenient, you get everything you want at the click of a button. You have Uber anywhere and Ubereats to get anything at any time of the day. One thing that happened while we were there, it was Easter Monday and everything was closed. The people who owned the house came in and cleaned out the fridge, so we got back from racing and there was no food. We had to go to a corner store and find food to make dinner for 8 guys. That was something that we were not used to. That period in Europe was probably the most difficult time this year, on top of crashing a lot. I crashed 7 times.
With the season winding down, what would be a good step forward into next year for you?
I’d love to make it to the next level. I’d love to go World Tour. I had such a rough Europe year, I concussed twice, crashed 7 times, DNF 7 times. For me, mentally and physically, that was the most difficult part of the whole year. It took me a long time to get over that. I recognize I can do things differently though. I think I race really well when I have a chip on my shoulder, with something to prove. So, I want to go back to Europe because I have something to prove over there so that’s a big goal for me. Also, just like continuing the success trying to step more into a leadership role. Being able to help other guys and keep guys calm. Today was a position for me that was somewhat new, where I was the leader on the road. We had Gavin and we had Sergei but I was the one calling the shots and keeping everyone together and calm. That’s a goal for next year. I just want to keep being grateful and keep being appreciative that I’m able to race my bike and call this a career. I want to keep doing it as long as I can. I think that’s a thing lot of people aren’t able to do so I just recognize it and appreciate it.
What do you do with your down time?
I’ve got a couple video games on the phone right now, which is actually taking up too much time. I have a kindle so I’ll also read. Right now, a teammate and I are planning a trip. He’s bringing out 7 guys from Australia and we’re going to do a 10 day mountain bike trip around the Rockies and go down to Moab. That’s taken up a lot of time, organizing Airbnbs, plane tickets, rental cars, and we’re getting a chef. We’ll see where that goes but we’re having fun with it right now. At home, I roast coffee and that’s fun to do. I’m doing a river trip as well. I think being on the road, you probably only have like 3 hours of down time. We get done racing, we get back, you shower, have a massage and try to communicate with your fiancée, friends, and family and just try to zone out a little bit. By dinner time you’re so tired you just want to go back to sleep and do it again the next day.
Travis kicks off the Colorado Classic with a 2nd place finish in Stage 1 - a Circuit Race around Vail.
Stage 2 of the Colorado Classic featured a Time Trial through Vail. The sub-10 mile stage challenged riders with a 1,500 feet climb up to the top of Vail pass.
Stage 3 - the Queen Stage transfered to Denver for 100-miles and 8,133 feet of climbing.
Fueling up for Stage 4.
The final stage of the 2018 Colorado Classic was an 8-lap circuit around downtown Denver.
Another Stage Victory and sprint finish for Travis McCabe - a great way to wrap up the Colorado Classic.
A little Colorado fashion on the podium.
A historic moment for the UHC Pro Cycling Team - with Gavin Mannion and Katie Hall winning the Colorado Classic overall - a great team celebration!