The newest rider at Bissell Pro Cycling, 19-year-old Patrick Bevin, scored his first National Racing Calendar win, in the sponsor’s hometown, at the Grand Cycling Classic Saturday. When VeloNews asked runner-up Bernie Sulzberger if he knew who Bevin was before Saturday, he answered: “No one really knew. Everyone was like, ‘Who’s this kid from New Zealand?’ Obviously he’s pretty strong.”
Pretty strong indeed. Bevin soloed for 35 minutes to pull the win in the 90-minute criterium in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was the biggest win of his neo-pro season in the U.S.
Last winter, Bevin rode a solid season in his native New Zealand with the Bici Vida team, scoring two stage wins and the sprinter’s classification at the Tour of Southland, as well as a pair of silver medals at the national U19 road championships. He closed the year as the Bike New Zealand Junior Road Cyclist of the Year.
Bevin took those accolades on the road this spring, landing with the Rubicon-Orbea developmental squad in the U.S. to start the 2010 season. “I took a bit of a different track when I packed my bags and headed straight for the States,” said Bevin. “I knew it was a place where I knew I could race well.
“I could have gone to Europe and raced club races and tried to fight my way through, but coming here I could go straight into lining up – that’s the great thing about being an amateur in the States – you get to race the pros in 75 percent of the biggest races here.”
Bevin lined up and lined out U.S. pros in a number of events, registering two stage wins and the GC at the Cherry Blossom Classic, as well as fifth in stage 4 at the Tour of the Gila. According to Bevin, the Rubicon program was the perfect introduction to U.S. racing, with a solid lineup of Kiwis and strong management. “There an amazing outfit; what they do with the budget they’re on is truly phenomenal,” said Bevin. “I got to every big race with them. It meant some time in the car, but we got there and we raced and it was cool. For my first year, I couldn’t have asked for a better start.”
Bissell takes notice
As Bevin began racking up results in the spring, Bissell management took notice. They’d seen him in Southland – Bissell ran a four-rider squad in the race – and his resume was improving by the week.
In May, Bissell invited Bevin to join their roster, and he jumped at the chance. “We started following a little bit and gave him the opportunity to come across and he did,” said Bissell director Eric Wohlberg. “We’re very happy.”
Bevin’s first race with the team was the Basking Ridge Twilight Criterium. He finished third behind Lisban Quintero (CRCA) and Alessandro Bazzana (Fly V Australia). A week later, with Bissell missing Frank Pipp and Kyle Wamsley to injuries, Bevin made the roster for the Philadelphia International Championship. He proved his worth, making the front group until the final climb of the Manayunk Wall.
“He did a hell of a ride at Philly, pretty much rode himself way into the ground and he almost made it,” said Wohlberg. “He came off the last time up Manayunk and that was probably twice as far as he’s ever ridden in his life at that point, so for him to get that far in Philly on his first try is pretty impressive.”
“Philly was amazing,” said Bevin.
The now-NRC-winner took a few weeks off the bike after Philly and will close the season out with a full schedule for his new squad. He’ll turn up next at Tour of Elk Grove. Of his rapid ascension this year, Bevin said, “It’s been pretty quick, quicker than I would have expected.”
First impressions are important and Wohlberg described Bevin as “a real honest kid, real pleasant.” Wohlberg, a multiple stage winner at Southland himself, said that while his new rider is learning his role in the team, Bevin is already proving his place. “He’s quickly proving that he’s going to be one of our better guys,” said Wohlberg.
“I think he’s going to be a superstar, hopefully in the very near future if he keeps on going this way, if we can keep him off the pavement, make sure he’s eating right and training right,” said Wohlberg. “There doesn’t seem to be any question that he rides his bike. He certainly trains hard. We’ll have to see how the rest of this season finishes off for him and definitely he’s a guy we want to keep in our program.”
Bevin has been racing nearly non-stop since the beginning of the New Zealand season in late 2009. “It’s been a long season straight out of juniors. I’ve been here since March 14th and I’ll run to the day for my six-month visa,” he said. “Man, I’ve loved it and I’ll keep plugging away.”
When he returns to New Zealand in September, Bevin plans to take a long break before tackling a limited track schedule. He placed top 10 twice at junior track worlds in 2009 – with very little experience – and would like to return to worlds as a U23 in 2011. Other than worlds and perhaps the Commonwealth Games, Bevin is limiting his track plans after a long road season. “Nothing specific,” said Bevin. “I’ll do a few carnivals and I’ll probably do a lesser racing season than I did last year.”
After Saturday, Sulzberger took notice of the fast kid from New Zealand. As Bevin closes out his first pro season in the next two months, the rest of the U.S. peloton will certainly follow suit.