As Fall begins and the 2015 season concludes, some of the team’s athletes not involved with World Championship weekend in Richmond, VA struck off to compete elsewhere – Mike Woods, Pierrick Naud and Lex Albrecht couldn’t resist the temptation of Victoriaville, Quebec’s Classique des Appalaches, a newly formed, mountain-themed one-day race offering a punishing course and a sizable prize pot. The team’s most talented pure sprinters, Brad Huff and Eric Young, were joined by Curtis White and guest rider Jeremy Durrin for a three-race series along the East Coast, featuring the New Haven Grand Prix in New Haven, CT, Boston’s TD Bank Mayors Cup, and Hatford’s Connecticut Cycling Festival.
The teams accounted for an impressive five podium finishes and two wins across the events – Woods winning and Albrecht finishing 2nd in Quebec, and Brad Huff storming the criteriums with his leadout companions to finish 2nd, 2nd, and finally 1st in Hatford.
Huff Attempts “Triple Crown” on Eastern Seaboard
Young and Huff, fatigued from a year’s worth of racing, couldn’t resist the draw of the American criterium, a refreshing changeover from their grueling calendar of high-altitude stage racing and one-days this summer. They attacked the races, delivering Huff to 2nd place finishes in New Haven and Boston and concluding their seasons with a spectacular win for Huff in Hartford.
“Young and myself came in to the weekend well prepared but emotionally drained from a long season,” said Huff. “The plan from the beginning was to have a lot of fun and see how the races play out. Luckily for us, our fitness levels increased the fun levels with our constant attacking and prime hunting. For the three days of racing the guys positioned me perfectly and we capped the weekend off with the big W! We laid it all out there each day and rode away content and stoked on what we accomplished as a team.”
The four riders joined the UnitedHealthcare team for the “Gear Up For Wellness” event at UnitedHealth Group’s Hartford office., a relaxing final chapter to the season.
“’Gear Up for Wellness’ capped of an already great trip with incredible positive interactions with all the employees of the Optum and UnitedHealthcare networks,” said Huff. “Many individuals watched at least one of the weekend’s races and stated how impressed they where with our professionalism and tenacity lap after lap. It was great to hang out with a group of people so enthusiastic about health & wellness, and so interested in bikes!”
Woods, Albrecht Shine on Home Soil
The Classique des Appalaches tackled some of the toughest hills in the lush region outside Victoriaville, Quebec, with 35% of the course comprising gravel roads. Two steep, short ascents punctuated the finish. It was a perfect course for Woods, who executed textbook tactics to take home the win. He locked into the race’s early breakaway, a powerful 4-rider move whose main threat was fellow Canadian Antoine Duchesne (Team Europcar). The quartet built an insurmountable 8-minute gap after nearly 100 km of hard riding, and Woods attacked his breakaway companions on the race’s second to last ascent, with only Duchense able to follow the pace.
“I was feeling great throughout the day and knew that the final 10km, which featured two short, but very steep climbs, suited me well,” said Woods. “I just waited for those two last climbs, and then hit out as hard as I could. Duchesne held with me on the first climb, but I was able to pull away from him on the final climb, and win. My dad coined it as, ‘my sweetest victory to date.’”
Ontario, Canada native Lex Albrecht flew solo in the women’s Classique des Appalaches, battling with Quebecois Véronique Fortin (Gatineau QC) on the 108 km course. The runner-up finish was sweetened by a unique trophy – 5.3 kg of pure Canadian maple syrup. Race winner Fortin received her weight in Canada’s sugary trademark.
“This is a race that I know is going to take off in the years to come. Just the first edition was spectacular. The fact that the organizers are offering equal prize money for the men and women is a big deal for me, and many of the other female riders. It’s a race that I want to have on my fall calendar for years to come, and this gesture from the organization has solidified my plans. My season is toning down since returning from the last race in France, and I’ve mostly been doing coffee shop rides. I couldn’t miss this one though, so I put my game face on! It felt great to be on the podium at such a great race to finish off the season.”