With a successful block of training in sunny Southern California under their belts and spring quickly approaching, Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefits Strategies is now busy settling into their European home base this week to begin the 2015 racing season in proper.
As has become customary, the men’s team will begin its racing calendar with a block of international racing. The Orange & Black returns to Portugal for 2015 and begins their 6-week campaign with the prestigious and hotly contested Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta (UCI 2.1), February 18th – 22nd.
Ryan Anderson, Jesse Anthony, Guillaume Boivin, Phil Gaimon, Will Routley, Mike Woods, Eric Young, and Tom Zirbel have been selected to the Volta ao Algarve lineup, but the team plans to substitute riders midway through their campaign. Brad Huff, Pierrick Naud, Bjorn Selander, Tom Soladay, and Scott Zwizanski will tag in part way through the trip, while Anderson, Boivin, and Young tackle the full block of European racing.
“We feel honored to have received an invitation to the Volta ao Algarve this year,” said Performance Director Jonas Carney. “This is a huge race for our team and a great opportunity for our riders to go up against the best in the world. It’s not every day that a US Continental team has a chance to compete in a race of this caliber. It’s very motivating for everyone involved in our program.”
The invite is truly rare for a US-based continental team like Optum p/b KBS, and proof positive of growing respect for the team on the world stage. The 2014 general classification podium was occupied by the current world road race champion Michal Kwiatkowski (1st), Tour de France champion Alberto Contador (2nd), and last year’s road race world champ Rui Costa in third.
The campaign will also feature Cycling Portugal – Classica de Loulé (March 1st), Grande Premio do Guadiana (March 7th – 8th), Volta a Costa Vicentina (March 21st – 22nd), and ultimately culminating with the Volta ao Alentejo / Liberty Seguros stage race from March 25th – 29th.
“In our previous trips to Portugal we have had some success and we know we can be competitive in the .2 races on our schedule,” reports Carney. “However the Volta ao Algarve is a different level – we will be up against roughly eight World Tour teams. We’ll approach it much the way we approach the Tours of California, Colorado, Utah or Alberta. It’s important for the team to work together, be aggressive, take chances, and seize opportunities.”
Optum p/b KBS will then return home to the United States to kick off racing on the domestic scene with the Redlands Classic, Joe Martin Stage Race, which has upgraded to UCI status for men and women, and the climbing heavy Tour of the Gila, won by the team in 2014.
“Our athletes have worked very hard to prepare for this trip and they are very motivated to get results in Portugal. However, the ultimate goal for this trip is to give our riders the best possible preparation for the Amgen Tour of California and other big events in the US. We cannot think of a better way to prepare our athletes than this schedule of races in Portugal,” said Carney.
Volta ao Algarve Roster:
– Ryan Anderson
– Jesse Anthony
– Guillaume Boivin
– Phil Gaimon
– Will Routley
– Mike Woods
– Eric Young
– Tom Zirbel