As another year of international racing concludes, the men of Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies celebrate a new achievement – finishing their season as the top-ranked team on the UCI America’s Tour (AT) standings. The AT encompasses the top UCI races in the Western Hemisphere, and is the closest measure of the best teams and athletes in North and South America. Performance Director Jonas Carney called the 2015 season the team’s best ever, with consistency and stand out performances from their first races in Portugal in February and March through a grueling sequence of stage racing in the heat of summer.
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 men and women of Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies finished the 2015 season together at the UCI World Championship Team Time Trial, fitting punctuation to the Orange & Black’s most productive season in team history.
The day before the team time trial (TTT) world championship, in a best case scenario, is a day that should be easily forgotten, washed away with the nerves and adrenaline that will accompany Sunday’s main event. Notes are taken by directors and athletes put in some efforts, but not too many. Best to stay fresh. It’s about smoothing over as many kinks as possible before 24 do-or-die miles of racing that will be seen by millions around the world.
The men’s team conducted a final training session on the Worlds course. Each team is granted one full ride of the course on closed roads the day before the race, but before that, things get a bit more guerrilla, as in parking the team Acura and van in a ditch and dodging traffic and other TTT squads on the open roads.
The men’s team will toe the line at the final one-day race of the UCI and NRC calendar this weekend at the newly christened Reading 120 in Reading, PA on September 12. The UCI 1.2 ranked, 120 mile circuit race, described as “very long and very hard” on the race’s website, will be the final tune-up for the team as it prepares for a historic culmination of the season at the UCI World Championships in Richmond, VA.
Mike Woods cemented the red Best Canadian Rider jersey (likely tinted brown after six days of often wet, frigid racing) at the Tour of Alberta after a final circuit race in downtown Edmonton. The Ottawa, Ontario native won the classification, which became a climber’s contest after two days in Jasper National Forest on the steep slopes of the Colorado Rockies, where temperatures plummeted near the freezing mark.
Mike Woods took over the lead in the Best Canadian jersey competition at the Tour of Alberta after the race’s second consecutive mountaintop finish at Marmot Basin.
The team opened a busy Memorial Day weekend of racing with standout performances in two countries. Leah Kirchmann won the Tour de Lafayette, the opening stage of St. Louis’ Gateway Cup race series, with Brad Huff taking second in the men’s edition of the popular main street criterium. Mike Woods got his first chance to test his climbing legs after his career defining performance in last month’s Tour of Utah, this time on native soil at the Tour of Alberta. Woods finished fifth in the race’s first climbing stage through the cold, alpine terrain of Jasper National Park.
The Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies men head north this week to begin the third leg of their summer of stage racing, the UCI 2.1 ranked Tour of Alberta. This year significantly retools the race’s traditionally sprinter friendly route, adding several challenging stages in the Canadian Rockies. The Orange & Black will field a well-rounded roster, with the hopes of contesting both the yellow jersey and stage wins in Alberta.