The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis returns a solid core of veterans to work with a strong new crop of young riders for the 2010 season.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“One of the things this organization has always done well, from day one, is to blend veteran professionals with younger riders into consistently strong teams,Ã¢â‚¬Â said team directeur sportif Mike Tamayo. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The new group we have coming in has a lot of talent. When you put them together with guys like Rory (Sutherland), Tim (Johnson) and Chris (Baldwin), they not only have a chance to learn how to race from some of the best, most professional riders in the country, but also how to win.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Leading the new group will be young sprinters Jake Keough and Eric Barlevav. At 22, Keough comes to the team from Kelly Benefits, for whom he put up strong results in 2009, including three stage wins at the Vuelta Ciclista del Uruguay. The 23-year-old Barlevav, in his first pro season with Mountain Khakis in 2009, showed that he was turning into a formidable sprinter, winning the finale of the USA Crit Series, while showing consistency throughout the year.
TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re joined by another young fast man, Jonny Clarke, who, despite just turning 25, has a wealth of experience at the pro level, particularly in his time racing with the South Australia-AIS squad. In 2007, he delivered a stage win in the Jayco Tour Down Under, and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s shown that heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more than capable of winning sprints or providing lead-outs.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re excited about these three young guys,Ã¢â‚¬Â Tamayo said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Eric and Jake both have really good speed, and Jonny has a good sprint and is solid tactically. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still finding where he fits in with his talent, and weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re looking forward to shaping his career.Ã¢â‚¬Â
UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis has also bolstered its stage-racing team with four additions to the squad, led by Morgan Schmitt, who comes to the program from Bissell. Schmitt, who turns 25 just after the New Year, will be entering his fourth season as a pro, and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been developing more each year.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Morgan is a good all-around rider,Ã¢â‚¬Â Tamayo noted. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He climbs well and time trials well. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just a big engine.Ã¢â‚¬Â
HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be joined by another rising stage race star, Max Jenkins, who won the 2007 U23 Road Race National Championship. Jenkins, who just turned 23, spent the 2009 season racing predominantly in Europe with the Glud & Marstrand squad. However, he turned a few heads back in the states when he made the final selection at the U.S. Pro Road Race and finished 14th.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s spent a lot of time racing in Europe the past few years,Ã¢â‚¬Â Tamayo said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“and weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re looking forward to seeing what he can do in the U.S. with that experience.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Matt Crane, now 24, returns to the organization after a year away. He rode for the squad in 2007 and 2008, and returns with his strong work ethic and time trialing skills.
Just short of his 26th birthday, Adrian Hegyvary joins UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis for his first season as a pro on the road, but the big rider has plenty of experience and success internationally on the track. Hegyvary brings another big engine to the squad, having finished 2nd in the 2009 U. S. elite national time trial championships. Proving heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s well-rounded, Hegyvary made his way onto the podium at the 2009 Athens Twilight Criterium. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Adrian is just super-strong,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Tamayo. Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a lot like Roman Kilun.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Dutch rider Marc de Maar rounds out the new signings. De Maar, who turns 26 in February, rode for the Rabobank Pro Tour team for the last three years, and the Rabobank Continental team for two years prior to that, where he was a teammate of Rory Sutherland in 2004. He raced a number of prominent stage races in Europe the past few years, including finishing both the Giro dÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Italia and Vuelta a EspaÃƒÂ±a. De Maar comes off an injury-filled 2009, and is looking to return to form in the U.S. in 2010. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Marc is excited to give racing in the U.S. a go, and weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re excited to have him,Ã¢â‚¬Â Tamayo added.
United Healthcare Presented by Maxxis returns a core group of riders who have been critical to the teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s success the past three years. Leading the team once again will be 2007 and 2008 NRC Individual Points Champion Rory Sutherland. The soon-to-be 28-year-old has been one of the most consistently successful and reliable riders in North America the past three years. The Australian won the overall titles of the Nature Valley Grand Prix the past two years, and the Joe Martin Stage Race the past three. His success results from his versatility: he is a solid climber, strong time trialist and can put in a very good sprint, especially out of breaks. When the team needs a rider to step up, he has always been there with a top performance.
For stage races, Sutherland got help in the latter part of 2009 from Chris Baldwin, who returns to the team for 2010. He made an immediate impact last year, finishing 2nd overall at the Mt. Hood Classic. Baldwin, a two-time U.S. National Time Trial Champion, returns as a leader for climbing stage races like Hood and the Tour of Utah that take the riders to higher elevations.
The stage race squad returns two more strong workers, Kilun and Bradley White. Kilun enters his fifth season with the organization. His growing experience and ability to ride himself into the ground for his teammates have proven invaluable the past few years. White, meanwhile, continued his aggressive riding in his second year as a pro in 2009. He could often be found in breaks, and earned Most Aggressive Rider status in stages of both the Amgen Tour of California and the Tour of Missouri.
Karl Menzies and Andrew Pinfold return for the criteriums and one-day races, as well as stage races like Nature Valley that call for a rider who can sprint and get over the climbs. Menzies, also entering his fifth year with the team, returned to form last year after an injury marred 2008, winning the sprinterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s competition of the Vuelta Mexico. Pinfold served the dual role of lead-out and lead man for numerous races in 2009, posting a stage win at the Vuelta Mexico and winning the overall title of the Tour de White Rock. He was a regular visitor to the podium in 2009, closing out the year with a 2nd place in the final stage of the Tour of Missouri.
Tim Johnson returns as road captain, following yet another stellar cyclocross season that saw him win his third elite national championship. Johnson has been a team leader for three years now, and applies his vast tactical knowledge like an extra directeur sportif.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“As a team, we have a huge amount of optimism for the 2010 season,Ã¢â‚¬Â Johnson said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re really set up well with the guys we have, with the motivation and support, to have one of the best seasons ever, not just in results but in the way we race. You need a group of guys you can trust to get the job done, and we have that.Ã¢â‚¬Â
One other important addition to the organization is the return of Gord Fraser, who will be one of the teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s directeur sportifs. Fraser was a pillar of the team from its first year in 2003 until he retired after the 2006 season.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I had a really good experience in 2009 in my first year of directing with Team Type 1, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s really great to come back to this program,Ã¢â‚¬Â Fraser said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have a lot of pride in having helped build this team from its beginning in 2003 into a national power. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m looking forward to working with Karl and Tim again, and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m really excited to be working with the young guys, especially Eric, Jake and Jonny, and turning them into top sprinters.Ã¢â‚¬Â
In his career, Fraser racked up over 200 wins, went to the Olympics three times and won just about every major race in North America, as well as winning a stage of the Criterium International in France. Fraser not only brings this vast racing experience to the team, but also the knowledge of training and nutrition heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s built the past couple years as a coach with Carmichael Training Systems.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“My experience with CTS the past few years can also help guide our riders in 2010,Ã¢â‚¬Â Fraser said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I can also serve as a liaison with the ridersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ coaches, coordinate training programs and make sure the riders are peaking at the right time for races.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Above all, Fraser noted, Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have a great new sponsor, and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m really looking forward to working with them to achieve their goals for the sponsorship, and help them further their mission of promoting healthy lifestyles. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve actually had UnitedHealthcare as my insurance provider through CTS the past couple years, so I have a first-hand knowledge of their great service. This is my chance to re-pay them a bit, too.Ã¢â‚¬Â