What's Cool In Road Cycling

Team Rally: ‘We Are Going To Race’

PEZ joined Team Rally for an informal media day and ride, and found the UCI America’s Tour #1 team’s blend of World Tour guidance and young rider enthusiasm is riding to win America’s top races in 2016.

 

When you’re the number one ranked domestic professional team in the Americas, how do you get better? For the former Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies cycling team the answer was simple, bring in another sponsor. Enter Rally Health to take over the title sponsorship role in 2016 to create Rally Cycling.

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Rally Health is a national information technology and services company whose goal is to help people take an active role in their own health care. With them on board team management had something that seems to be hard to find in today’s professional peloton, more money. “We have a bit of a bigger budget this year so we are already making some improvements. We will probably spend a little more time in Europe. We are doing some more training camps. A lot of little things which will help us win some more bike races,” said Performance Director Jonas Carney.

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Some of the other benefits seem small, but should pay big dividends. “We have a bit more staff this year. It will free me up to focus on some things that I can improve. We have Pat McCarty moving to the men’s team and Eric Wohlberg staying [as directors] with the men’s team. It will help me work on things like recruiting and scheduling; maybe some additional training camps,” adds Carney.

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Jonas Carney: “already making some improvements.”

The team’s fast man, Eric Young, who has won two stages of the Tour of Utah, agrees. “There are little things behind the scenes like having an extra soigneur and an extra mechanic at each race. It is that little stuff that adds up.”

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Eric Young

As the team makes inroads into the general classification of North America’s biggest stage races, more money means they can get their key riders into the wind tunnel. But, one of the most visible changes is that the team will travel to Europe three times this spring to test themselves against Europe’s best and hone their skills for the big US races such as the AMGEN Tour of California.

Last year the European excursion paid big dividends back in the states where the team not only won the America Tour in 2015, but continued their success of stage wins and jerseys in North America’s biggest stage races where they were racing against World Tour teams, the best in the sport.

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“It has been a lot of work. We are going into our 10th season. We have gone from a team that was just hanging on for dear life at those races and now we had a guy who finished second overall at [Tour of] Utah.

“In most sports everything is very divided and those lines don’t get crossed. In cycling, our team gets to race against the teams that have ten or twenty times our budget. It would be the equivalent of the Ohio State Buckeyes playing the Green Bay Packers,” said Carney.

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Will Routley (above), stage winner at the 2014 Amgen Tour of California where he also won the KOM jersey explains why the team has been so successful against the big boys. “The biggest thing is that we are competitive and we want to race. This program, I would say, is by far the best program on the North American scene as a continental team. I spent three years in Europe riding on mostly pro continental teams and over there, even on pro conti teams, you still get pushed around a little bit. That always happens.

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Will Routley won the Tour of California KOM jersey in 2014.

“You can fixate on that and use that as an excuse and worry about it or, like the culture on this team, we feel we are just as good as anyone and this is our home race and we know these stages and we have done recons so we are going to race. Go out there and fight for your spot like everybody else. We are not afraid to do that.”

Rally Cycling will field a 15-man Men’s squad, the most notable signing is former Team Sky rider Danny Pate (Pez first interviewed Danny way back here, and Lee Rodgers admired his strong anti-doping ethic here). “I have been friends with Danny since our Prime Alliance days, so 15 years. I know Danny very well. Typically I am skeptical of bringing in older World Tour guys. I have seen it not work well in the past with certain riders, but I know Danny really well and I actually think he is going to have a great season. I think he is really going to enjoy it.

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“It is cool to already see him taking a leadership role with the team. At our team time trial workouts this week it just came naturally to him to take a leadership role. The guys really trust him and want to hear what he has to say,” said Carney.

Riders returning for 2016 include Jesse Anthony, Brad Huff, Pierrick Naud, Will Routely, Bjorn Selander, Tom Soladay, Curtis White, Eric Young and Tom Zirbel (we’ve talked to Tom many times, most recently here). Joining the team are Rob Britton (Smart Stop), Evan Huffman (Astana) Pez interviewed Evan here, Shane Kline(Smart Stop), Emerson Oronte(Smart Stop), Danny Pate (Team Sky) and Adam de Vos(H&R Block).

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The roster for the women’s team has been completely revamped with Commonwealth Games Road Race Champion and Olympic medalist Jasmin Glaesser as the lone returning rider. “The introduction of a women’s World Tour meant a renewed commitment to racing abroad for a lot of North American teams. Rally Cycling used it as an opportunity to reevaluate how their program can make the biggest impact at home. This year that meant a focus on integrating young talent to give them the tools to develop their potential as well as supporting those riders looking to compete at the Rio Olympics,” said Glaesser.

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Nine riders join the Canadian including Erica Allar(Colavita-Bianchi), Elle Anderson(BMW Happy Tooth Dental), Heather Fischer(DNA Cycling), Kirsti Lay (Canadian National Team), Katherine Maine (Cyclery Opus), Sara Poidevin(Global
Relay), Jessica Prinner(Colavita-Bianchi), Hannah Ross(Midwestern State) and Emma White(Hot Tubes).

• See the Team Rally website for more info

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