Tomorrow’s races begin an intense 6-event block of racing centered in Southern California.
Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies will kick off a nearly month-long block of racing tomorrow at the Merco Cycling Classic in Merced, California. Both men’s and women’s teams will field a full squad at the stage race. One day later, a three-man team will compete for the third consecutive year at OCBC Cycle Singapore, a unique one-day event on the country’s national F1 track.
The six-race, 25-day racing block, centered in Southern California, includes Merco, the San Dimas Road Race, and the traditional NRC season opener, the Redlands Bicycle Classic. These three California stage races cover the full spectrum of disciplines, with multiple days of time trial, criterium and road racing. The men’s and women’s team’s will compete side-by-side for five of the events.
“Rachel (Heal, women’s Performance Director) and I are focused on keeping all of our athletes racing as much as possible, especially early in the year,” said Performance Director Jonas Carney. “There will be times in 2012 when we will have four squads competing at four different events on a given day. There will also be times, as in the coming weeks, when both programs converge at one event. It is exciting for Rachel and I to kick things off together, and it adds some friendly competition between the two programs.”
The racing stint will conclude for both programs on March 25th at the classic Redlands closer, Sunset Loop Road Race. The notoriously difficult circuit race will help determine the first NRC stage race winner of the year. Heal is certain both teams will have the fitness necessary to compete at the event after plenty of opportunity to stretch their versatility and depth in March.
“Both teams have time trial specialists who can’t wait to time trial, sprinters who can’t wait to sprint, and climbers who can’t wait to get out of the saddle and punch it,” said Heal. “These early season, three- and four-day stage races are a way for us to gauge the team across multiple disciplines.”
Carney and Performance Manager Eric Wohlberg also planned a mini-camp centered around planned routes for the 2012 Amgen Tour of California. Although invites are not officially announced, Carney considers the race a major goal and planned accordingly.
“We set up a tight block of racing in March, but there were a few days off we could fill up” said Carney. “We found a small window to train on some of the Amgen routes and continue to push the fitness. Building early season fitness is crucial to success as the season wears on.”
Veteran Mike Friedman agrees with the philosophy and aims to impress at these early races.
The F1 track in Singapore, China.
“Every race counts, no matter how small or big it is, and we race to win, period,” said Friedman. “Adding in a mini-camp is a great idea because it keeps us working, even when we aren’t racing. When you have to race at a slight disadvantage physically from fatigue, you gain physiological benefits that are critical at longer, more intense late-season races like the Tour of California, Tour of Utah, and Nature Valley Grand Prix.”
Halfway across the globe, a young three-man team will attack a race following an entirely different formula in an entirely different part of the world,OCBC Cycle Singapore. The starlit criterium event will see 60 pro riders attack the countries famed F1 course, a beautifully designed urban racetrack running over the Singapore River and along the stunning Marina Bay.
Merco Cycling Classic Men’s Roster
Merco Cycling Classic Women’s Roster
OCBC Cycle Singapore Roster