Quinn Simmons has a dream. And his Trek-Segafredo team don’t yet know about it.
“I’d like to do it more and it’s in the Olympics now so… I’ve thought about it. I think there’s a way to do it in 2026,” the American is talking about ski mountaineering – or SkiMo, for short – a winter sport where skiers attach ‘skins’ underneath their skis and hike up a slope before skiing back down.
Before he became a cyclist, Simmons finished third in the Junior SkiMo World Championships sprint race in Italy in 2017. The sport, as he says, will make its Olympic debut in the Italian town of Cortina d’Ampezzo in 2026 – and Simmons wants to be there.
“Hypothetically, if maybe I did a Giro-Tour double, got a lot of racing in early, took a break after the Tour de France in 2025, and then started running and training for the skis, I’d then have time for qualification [races] for the Olympics.” he tells Rouleur at his team’s winter training camp in Calpe. “It’s the first time in the Olympics and it would be quite special. It’s something I think I could do and I think I would make the selection.
“I think it could be a good story and my cycling wouldn’t be sacrificed due to five months of skiing. Let’s say I get a spot on the bike at the Olympics in Paris 2024 and then 2026 on the skis – that’s a pretty good objective. Maybe my boss Luca [Guercilena] hears about this and says ‘no, no’ and puts an end to it, but I think if I could do it in a way that Trek would be happy, I would really like to try and go.”
Make no mistake, Simmons, whose father Scott went to four SkiMo World Championships, is deadly serious. Skiing is his first love. “If it was more developed and you could be a SkiMo racer and it could be a genuine career choice, I think it would be cool for me to pursue,” he goes on, “but when I was racing it was pretty obvious it was not. It’s hard because no one is really making any real salary out of it, so a lot of the top guys really have to work and do other things.”
Simmons during stage one of the 2022 Tour de France (Image by Zac Williams/SWPix.com)
If Simmons, supported by his cycling wage, committed to the project, he would have the time, resources and finance to find his skiing legs to be competitive. “It’s been a while since I raced [SkiMo] but I would have the freedom that I could go in 100% on the training,” he adds. “I know that when it comes to the descent I am at the level of the top guys. I just have to get my fitness back of running back up the hill.
“This winter [in November] I felt like I was still quite good on the skis, but I was far away from where I’d need to be if I was to race. I know I have the engine and the technique. But I am a bike racer so I do have to respect my job first. If my job gave me the green light, if I can get them to say yes, then you’d see me trying to do it.”
With a long beard that belies his age of 21 and wild blonde/ginger hair, Simmons looks far more like a mountaineer in a backcountry hut than he does a cyclist. He even proudly lifts up his trousers to reveal hairy legs. “I’ve not shaved since [GP] Montreal [his last race of 2022],” he says. “Why would I? It’s winter. I’m wearing leg warmers every day. I won’t shave until Strade Bianche [in March].”
Simmons had a meteoric rise through the cycling ranks as a junior. After hanging up his skis, he switched from mountain biking to road, joining the American LUX team. He was an instant success, becoming junior national road race champion in 2018, before the following season emulating Remco Evenepoel’s dominance on the junior circuit, winning 16 races and jerseys across 17 UCI race days, including the junior World Championships. It was no surprise that Trek snapped him up on a professional contract aged just 18.
In 2019 he became the Junior Road World Champion (Pauline Ballet/SWPix.com)
Cycling, however, is not his hobby – it's work. “The objective action of riding a road bike I don’t really enjoy. I don’t love it,” he says. “I do it because I’m a perfectionist. I enjoy the training and doing the work, but it’s the getting stronger side of it that I like.
“If I was a normal working person, had five hours free and I could choose what to do, I’d go skiing or play hockey. I’m not gonna go get my road bike. No! I do this solely for competition, to see how much I can get out of myself, and because I love winning. Maybe we’ll read this back in a few years and I’ll sound like a cocky idiot because it never happened, but I believe I can be world champion at some point.”
We’ll get back to that declaration shortly, but first: the apparent cockiness. Following a racism row on Twitter in September 2020 that led to his suspension from the team for a short period of time, Simmons has stayed out of the spotlight and refused to do interviews for a long time. Does he think he has a perception as a villain? “I mean, I don’t know,” he says. “Maybe from the loud minority on Twitter, maybe.
“But the people at home who know me, those who I’ve raced with my whole life, they know that maybe I am a bit crazy in the head with how I try to win, but we are competitors. If you don’t have that psycho side…
“You can sit anyone down in the WorldTour and no matter if they hide or not, everyone to get to this level has a killer in them.”
Simmons during stage 16 of the 2022 Tour de France (Zac Williams/SWPix.com)
Simmons has yet to locate their prolificness in professional bike races, but he’s confident he will soon. “Well, apparently I don’t win so far!” he jokes. “Luca told me I need two [wins in 2023] at least. The goal for a 10/10 season is five wins – two for a satisfactory one. It’s not hidden that for the level I ride at, for the level they support me, I haven’t done enough.”
He was part of five breakaways at the 2022 Tour, his debut in the race, and he believes that’s how he will be victorious. “I’m not gonna win a sprint or a summit finish, so where does someone like me win? From an all day breakaway where everyone else just dies,” he says.
“I know that if we come to the line with 10 guys and everyone’s completely on their knees, I know I’m the fastest finisher from there. I just have the problem with getting to that position.”
“I’m not a rider fighting to stay in the WorldTour,” he adds when it’s put to him he’s entering the final year of his contract. “I’ve proven that I deserve a spot here. Anything I do this year just gets me more money.”
And with that level of self-confidence, it’s not a shock that he mentions the biggest prize of all yet again. “I have a list [of goals] written down on the last page of my little gym workouts notebook,” he continues. “I’ve not ticked anything off my list yet. I won't say all of them, but the top of the list is world champion. I want to be the actual world champion.
“I got to try the baby one, I liked it, so I want the real one. Right now I’m not good enough, but do I think in four years I will be? Yeah.”
2026 could be quite the year if he follows through on his dreams.