Alex Howes is an American pro-cyclist who is currently riding for UCI world-tour team Cannonade-Drapac. Born in Denver, Colorado Alex turned full-time professional in 2012 and has completed all three major Grand-Tours; the Vuelta (2013, 2015) Le Tour (2014, 2016) and the Giro d'Italia. (2017)
Many thanks to Alex for talking the time to complete the Mamnick 'quiz'.
As a racing cyclist, which results are you most proud of and why?
My two stage wins in Colorado (2014 & 2017) are probably my two favorite results. The feeling of winning at home is just amazing and both had absolutely wild crowds.
Which are your favourite stretches of road to ride on locally and what is it that you like about them?
There’s a stretch of dirt road from the town of Gold Hill, CO up to Peak to Peak Highway. The road is usually nice and smooth, the views are top and the cars are rare.
The same question for roads anywhere in the world?
Death Vally has some of the wildest stretches of road on this planet. A man could die out there and he’d never know it.
What is your most memorable moment on the bike or involved with cycling?
Hitting Libby Hill for the final time during the World Championships in Richmond, VA was perhaps the coolest moment of my life. That memory ain’t going anywhere.
Has racing affected your relationship with the bike? If so, how?
When I was younger, my race bike was one of my best friends. I knew every inch, polished and re polished every piece, light lubed every bering for nearly every race. Now I beat the living shit out of my bikes and see them more as tools. But, I still ride just for fun sometimes, I still see it as a source of adventure and I still love the look of a clean chain and fresh bar tape.
Do you agree with Mickey Goldmill's advice to Rocky that 'women weaken legs’?
Only the ones that want your money.
We are in the midst of a well publicised boom, has it affected you? Do you see any negatives to the increase in popularity?
I don’t think that well publicized boom is quite as big over here in the states as it is in the UK. I’ll never forget the crowds we had at the start of the UK start of the 2014 Tour de France. Absolutely incredible. 2-3 people deep for over a hundred miles. Hillsides with thousands of people. Cameras & smartphones popping out of the crowd every few meters and smacking us in the face & shoulders… Just madness. Aside from phones in the face has this boom affected me? Sure, I suppose. Mostly it is positive. People recognize me on the street from time to time. I don’t have to explain to my girlfriend's parents what I do because they have already seen it on tv. People don’t throw cups of mustard at me anymore while I train. But, it can be hard being a pro in a world where every guy and his dog has a flash kit and bespoke artisanal bike and is more pro than the pros.
All cyclists, whether they race or not, seem to obsess over the weight of their bikes. Why do you think this is?
Do you approach riding, or ride your bike, differently now to when you first got into cycling?
I start each ride much slower than when I first started. Easy out, quick back.
Who has been your favourite pro riders over the years and why?
I have always been a big Andy Hampsten fan. The guy just oozes class on the bike. The legend of Fausto Coppi gets my wheels turning as well. The guy wrote the cycling style constitution.
What was you favourite era of professional bike racing?
The Lance era was my favorite cycling era. Then I changed my mind.
Mudguards, mudguards and mudflaps or racing bike with clip on guards through winter?
If it’s winter, do what you must. Fenders beat flogging yourself on the stair climber at the gym.
Photo credit to Walker Savidge.
Do you enjoy a cafe stop or do you prefer to ride straight round?
If I am doing a proper training ride there is no way I can door to door without at least a H2O fill up. And if I’m already stopped to get water… Let’s get a coffee.
Assos, Rapha or neither?
You can’t buy style.
What is your favorite piece of cycling kit (either something you currently own or have in the past)?
With a thick wool undershirt, a man can turn winter into summer. In fact, I have one that I put on last January and roses started budding in my garden that was buried with a meter of snow.
What do you think about Strava?
It’s a nice tool and can be fun sometimes but I don’t want to hear about it at the coffee shop.
What do you think about Sportive rides?
If it is not a closed road, stop at the fucking stop signs.
Do you have any cycling pet hates?
When a group ride regroups and half the people are standing in the middle of the road. A road is a designated avenue for travel, not a place where you stand with your bike perpendicular to traffic while you brag about how dialed your LinkedIn profile is.
Are there any cycling traditions that you think have been, or are being, lost as a result of changing attitudes and behaviour? And are we better off or worse off as a consequence?
Fucking power meters are killing my sport. I love science but if you’re on a club ride just fucking ride man. Enjoy the breeze without the numbers.
Cotton cap or helmet?
Self preservation is not really a factor in most people’s style but it is in mine. Helmet.
The benefits of spinning a low gear compared to mashing a high gear is often discussed. Putting aside the serious, physiological and mechanical aspects, what cadence you think looks right?
I think 85 is probably the best for preserving your reproductive anatomy with out being so low as to be detrimental to the ol' tendons. Not only is it good for the lower half, it’s also good on the eyes.
White, black or coloured socks?
Whatever man. As long as it’s not neon argyle.
Frame pump or mini pump?
I used to be a frame pump guy but recently mini pump technology has really taken off. That little screw on hose is a real game changer.
What do you like to talk about when you are on a ride with friends/team/club mates? Do you prefer to keep the subjects lightweight or get your teeth into something contentious or controversial?
Life is too short for small talk.
Who would be/is your perfect tandem partner? Would you ride captain or stoker?
Not Nathan Haas.
Which three words best describe you?
Grit, that’s it.
Photo credit to Jared Gruber.
All photo provided by Alex Howes, with permission.