Project Echelon – Spring Race Report

UCI Continental Team Project Echelon had a great start to the 2024 season – and have a lot still to come. We caught up with Eric Hill, Project Echelon team founder and manager.

A18: The early season has been quite busy for the team – tell us about the results so far.

Eric Hill: We started our season with Challenge Mallorca, which was our European season opener last year as well. Some of the best riders in the world are there – UCI World Teams and Pro Teams. Last year it was really a big learning opportunity for us: everything from logistics and management down to race plans and execution. After that we went on to other smaller races in Europe and were able to start applying what we learned. This year that first block was Mallorca, Tour of Valencia and Tour de Provence. That’s a much higher level of racing in one block than what we took on last season. It put an exponentially greater demand on the whole system: logistics, equipment, planning, and of course the racing itself. But even though the demands we were putting on ourselves were much higher, the team really came through.

I think we did a great job at taking what we learned last season and defining the opportunities for growth. At the start of this season, we set out to achieve four major results – we defined a major result as a top 5 in higher-level races or winning more minor competitions. We are walking away from this block of racing feeling really good about our ability to exceed that goal. We’ve had 14 race days so far, and in those 14 days we’ve had six top tens, one top five, a KOM jersey and a 15th place in the GC at Tour de Provence. We’re feeling confident because we’ve also identified the small fixes that could have led to even better results. That means we go into the next block knowing that we have all the training and skill we need, and there are just a few minor adjustments can lead to even better results. It’s a chance to capitalise on what we’ve learned.

A18: You have an exciting roster this season, with some new riders in an already top-tier lineup. Have any specific riders stood out so far?

EH: One of the most exciting things about all of those results so far is that they came from the whole team. We were in the break eight out of 14 days, represented by six different riders. It’s true that two riders got many of the top ten finishes – Scott McGill got multiple top tens, Tyler Stites also – but the whole team delivered them to those finishes. Our new riders who joined the team this season have really made their mark. Laurent Gervais, who’s from Quebec, has been an incredible addition and has a nose for sniffing out the strategy of the race and getting in the break. Sam Boardman has an incredible ability to keep the team motivated and focused. Scott is a consummate professional, always willing to give more. And the youngest rider on the team, Caleb Classen, showed the promise that we already knew he had, and really learned a lot during this racing block in Europe.

A18: What’s up next?

EH: We’re going into our team camp next, before the next block of racing. In the last three weeks the team has experienced more physical load than ever before, so the emphasis of this camp will be a bit different. We’ll be focusing more on things like teamwork, management, and communication, rather than this being a fitness test. It will be about recalibration and really setting us up for success both for when we return to Europe, and kicking off the US racing calendar in April.

Speaking of US racing, the Redlands Bicycle Classic is April 10-14, and that’s a major focus for us. We’ve won Redlands two years in a row and we’re aiming for three. That’s never been done before – it’s never been won three years in a row by the same individual or team. We’re really focused on showing some ownership over the race. We may have won twice, but it’s come down to the wire, so we’re looking for a convincing win this year.

And our Gala is coming up March 2nd and 3rd. It’s an outstanding opportunity for us to connect with our supporters and fans of cycling face to face. It’s amazing to have people come up to us and tell us they watch the European races on TV, that they’re cheering us on, and then we get to meet them in person and ride with them in the Gran Fondo. We also have a large group of active service members who will be taking part in the ride. It’s a unique opportunity to remove the barriers between pro athletes and the fans that are so important to what we do – and there’s a golf tournament as part of the Gala, so they also get to be better than us at something!