Larry Warbasse enjoying life back in the World Tour after putting Aqua Blue troubles behind him

Life certainly hasn’t been dull for American racer Larry Warbasse over the last 12 months.

From the collapse of Aqua Blue before the end of last season to a return to the World Tour – via a special ‘Grand Tour’ with fellow pro Conor Dunne – the cycling world has thrown plenty at the 29-year-old AG2R rider.

The Michigan-born rouleur is in the UK as part of the AG2R squad at the Tour of Britain and after yesterday’s second stage into Kelso, he sits 25th overall.

He’s been riding consistently this year and took part in the Giro earlier this summer, his first Grand Tour since 2017’s Vuelta which he was forced to abandon after fracturing his hand when he hit a mountain bike in the middle of the road.

Warbasse was forced to skip the Grand Tours last year after Aqua Blue missed out on invites, a turn of events which ultimately led to the team going out of business before the season ended.

He found out the team was no more via a text message from teammate Stefan Denifl as he was off for a ride with Philippe Gilbert. Deciding he wasn’t ready to walk away from the sport he loved, the former US road race champion set about emailing all his contacts at various World Tour teams, literally, straight away.

AG2R weren’t among the teams he’d contacted from the roadside on that fateful day but having raced with Romain Bardet at under-23 level he decided to drop him a message.

He found his old rival willing to help and within 24 hours he was speaking to AG2R boss Vincent Lavenu.

Things snowballed quickly from there and after heading out around Europe with Dunne on the now-famous #NoGoTour, the contract with AG2R was signed and sealed.

Since then he’s learned French – a stipulation of him signing with the team – on an intense course where met his girlfriend and found a sense of calm again after what was a turbulent end to 2018.

The present and future looking a whole heap rosier than 12 months ago, we caught up with Larry as he got his Tour of Britain underway…

How much are you looking forward to hitting the British roads for the Tour of Britain?

I’m very much looking forward to it. Should be some hard racing and good crowds! I always enjoy coming to the UK so I’m excited to be here.

What do you make of the course? There looks to be plenty of climbing and with the weather being so unpredictable it could be quite a tester. 

This year there aren’t any true summit finishes like there have been in years past, but I think it will be tough nonetheless. It should make for a more aggressive race with people having to take their chances in other places to take time.

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The addition of more pro-conti teams and the continental British teams I guess gives the race a different edge to some of the other stage races you’ve done this year, is there a sense that the domestic teams want to give the World Tour guys a bit of a kicking?

Haha, no, I wouldn’t say that I get that impression. I think no matter what level of team it is, there is a high level across the board. These days in cycling the margins are so small that everyone in the race is strong.

It’s not the first time you’ve ridden the UK roads and the crowds at Yorkshire when you rode must have been crazy. Are you expecting more of the same and how much do you take that in when you’re out there? 

The crowds in Yorkshire were INSANE. It makes racing here such a pleasure because that is something we really do take in! When there are fans everywhere and people cheering for you, it makes the suffering just that little bit easier. Or at least you suffer with a smile on.

How have you found life at AG2R this season? Has it been easy to get back into the swing of the World Tour?

It’s been good. Stepping back up to the WorldTour wasn’t too tough, I spent four years there before so it wasn’t really an adjustment. Just quite a bit more consistent race days and there are no easy races!

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The collapse of AquaBlue last year must have been a real blow. Did you take any positives from that experience and what do you think it’s done for you as a rider having to go through that? 

I took a bunch of positives from it! At the end of last year I wasn’t super happy anyways, as we weren’t getting into a lot of the big races I wanted to do. It was a bit of a blessing in disguise.

I got this opportunity with AG2R La Mondiale, I learned a new language and culture, met my girlfriend in the French course I took, and the NoGoTour was born out of it as well! So I have to say in the end, while it was tough at the time, it doesn’t upset me all that much.

You and Conor Dunne seemed to the best of it with the NoGoTour. Are you looking forward to being in the peloton again this week with him? Have any other riders been asking to go on the next NoGoTour?

Yes, I always love racing with Conor. He just had a baby with his partner Stacey and has been in Ireland a lot more recently, so I haven’t seen much of him.

It’s always great to catch up whenever we get a chance. And no, no one has really asked, but we were thinking about potentially working in some celebrity cameos, haha.

What’s the plan after ToB is done and dusted? Are you hanging around for the Worlds? Are you at AG2R again for next season?

I’d love to do the Worlds, but the selection hasn’t been made yet. I’ll go back to Nice and prepare for the end of season races in Italy, and if selected, hopefully, the worlds as well. That would be cool. 

And as for next season, I’m all sorted, so should be good!

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