October 17th | Minneapolis, MN
What does it take to acquire the nickname “Meatball” in the sport of professional cycling? As a 5’ 9” 170 pound former high school wrestler, Mike Friedman had both the physique and the personality to live up to one of cycling’s most unusual monikers. His unique size and stockiness helped Friedman roll across banked tracks, through sprint finishes, and down dangerous descents with the power and efficiency of a bowling ball. Throw in a liberal dose of humor, work ethic, and positivity, and you’ve made your Meatball.
This week, Friedman announces his retirement from cycling after 10 years in the pro peloton and four seasons with the team. He ended a decade of racing in typically gritty fashion – as a last minute call-up for Colorado’s grueling USA Pro Challenge following a strep throat diagnosis for Will Routley. It was a brutal seven days of racing to tackle without proper training and acclimation, but he toughed it out, crossing the race’s final finish line in Denver intact and unpinning his numbers with dignity for the last time.
The thirty-two year old Pittsburgh native’s career was full of high points. He contested the Spring Classics with the Garmin team in 2008, racing Paris Roubaix, Milan San Remo, and the Tour of Flanders. His Classics run was highlighted by a 12th place finish at the grueling Het Volk, contesting the bunch sprint after driving the day’s breakaway for 180 kilometers. Despite his efforts on the road, the indoor track may have been the place where Meatball found himself most comfortable – he won six national titles on the hardwood from 2005 – 2007 in solo pursuit, madison and team pursuit (alongside future Optum p/b KBS teammates Michael Creed and Brad Huff). Friedman’s speed on the track eventually led him to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where he competed in the madison alongside Bobby Lea. After the Olympics, he continued to race on the road and developed a reputation in the US as a passionate and hard working teammate.
“Mike was a natural fit for our team. He’s outgoing and intense and he always gave 100%, whether it was a local race or the Tour of California,” said Performance Director Jonas Carney. “The rest of the team fed on that kind of energy, and it brought everyone to another level. As a continental team, if you want to go up against WorldTour teams and get results, you need that kind of energy and intensity. It was great having Mike on the team for the last five years, and he will be greatly missed.”
Mike helps sell lemonade to support the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis during the Nature Valley Grand Prix.
We sat down with Friedman to talk about what he will remember most from a lifetime in the sport.
What has cycling meant to your life?
“Cycling is a sport that I’ve competed in since I was 13, and has defined me for nearly 20 years. I’ve had the opportunity to race in 36 countries on various continents and in hundreds, if not thousands, of cities. I went from riding my bike around Pittsburgh as a little kid to competing in Paris Roubaix, Milan San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, multiple World Championships, and the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. It all felt like a dream. This sport gave me the opportunity to meet the President of the United States (twice!) and yes, I stressed about eating with proper etiquette thanks to my mom’s old adage, “What if someday you eat dinner with the President? You need to know how to eat politely.” I have been fortunate to have the support of many amazing people throughout my life. These people spent time coaching, teaching, guiding and sponsoring me. The friends, stories, and connections that I made through this amazing sport were building blocks for who I am today. It’s allowed me to look at the world differently and provided me with an education that can’t be attained anywhere else.”
What was unique about your time with Optum p/b KBS?
“The last four years I spent with Optum and Kelly Benefit Strategies have been nothing short of amazing. It wasn’t just a team, but more so a band of brothers with the bicycle being the arms we bore together. We shared the same ideals and had many highs and lows riding for what we believed in. I’m very proud to have ridden my whole career 100% clean. Hard work, sleep, good nutrition, and sacrifice got me where I am today. I never considering doping, and I’m exceptionally proud of that fact. I believe in 100% pure sport, and I was privileged to ride for a team and a director in Jonas Carney who share such an important belief.”
Are there any moments that stand out from your time with the team?
“There are many moments I can remember being “major highlights”. As cyclists we set lots of goals, and whether we achieved those goals or get as close as we can, I will always consider it a highlight. I learned too late in my career that you can’t afford to be too happy with success and too low during hard times. One week can be huge success for the team, and the very next weekend we could all crash or get our backsides handed to us by another team. If I had to pinpoint a favorite highlight with Optum p/b KBS, the 2012 UCI World Championship Team Time Trial in Holland definitely stands out. It was a fantastic time for me and for our team for many reasons. We had a great time training together and living in close quarters at our team house in Belgium. We were incredibly focused on a result and we went after it, even if we still got beat handily by the ProTour teams.”
“I will also miss the beach house we rented in Oxnard, CA every year for training camp (I don’t mean the riding – I was always sore from that!). The activities and team bonding it provided were awesome: getting on wet suits to go ocean kayaking or swimming; kite flying; field goal kicking on the beach; trying to surf with Cando; walking the quiet beach at night and thinking about life; planking competitions in the living room; coffee on the back porch in the AM and a glass of wine in the PM. I’m really going to miss my time there with teammates both old and new.”
What was your biggest influence in the sport of cycling?
“My Dad was my biggest influence. He was overweight by the time I showed any real interest in his Masi Gran Criterium. It was his original bike, one that I now have since he passed away this June. We never did an actual “ride” together, but when I was a junior racer he worked for a trucking company as a manager. He had his CDL so he would commandeer a truck on Friday night after work, and we’d hit the road for Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, or wherever else there was a Lance Armstrong Junior Olympic Series Race (LAJORS). He would drive all night and I’d sleep in the sleeper cab, only to be awoken in the morning by fresh pancakes, exactly three hours before each race. He’d sleep some if he could, watch the race while walking the course, sleep some more if he could, and then we’d pick up a return load for his truck and head home Sunday afternoon. Sometimes that meant getting dropped off at school Monday morning in a semi truck. My Dad is the one who really believed in me early on, and he did whatever he could to allow me to race. I really, really miss him.”
Any last words?
From the bottom of my heart, I want to personally thank everyone who involved themselves in my life of cycling. Every moment was truly special, and all of the support allowed me to keep “chasing the dream”. For every professional athlete, retirement will come, but that doesn’t mean what we enjoy doing so much has to retire with it. I’m very excited for what the future holds, and plan on attacking it with the same energy I put towards my cycling career.
After hearing of Mike’s decision to retire the team began sharing some of their favorite moments from the last four years of the man they called “Meatball.”
By: Sean Burke
The off season, along commensurate reduction in training volume, is here. What to do with all of those extra hours off the bike? A little cross training is probably good for you overall health, and may even help you be a better bike rider next year. But you’ll still have time to spare, and it is an excellent time to catch up on your reading. There are volumes out there on training methods for cycling, but I’m going to suggest something a little different. 2014 is the 60th anniversary of the 4 minute mile, a record thought unbreakable until the early 1950s. The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb first came out 10 years ago on the 50th anniversary of the accomplishment, and the 60th anniversary is a great excuse to read or re-read the story.
The Perfect Mile chronicles the training and racing of three young men from different continents, all disappointed by their performance at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, as they attempt to redeem themselves by breaking that four minute barrier. Wes Santee: America Farm Boy, Roger Bannister: English medical student, and John Landy, the Australian college student, all eager to place themselves in the record books. Each man is striving to be the first to break 4 minute mile before the others, and each is man dealing with his own unique set of challenges. For Santee and Bannister, the clock is ticking both on and off the track as Santee prepares for his inevitable military service and Bannister on his retirement from running due to his entry into the “real world” of being a medical doctor. Meanwhile, Santee is saddled with the responsibility of leading his collegiate team to victory in track meets, and often required to run two or three events before he runs his mile in completion.
You’ll find yourself enraptured and motivated by how hard the three men train to beat the 4 minute barrier. If you read in the evenings before bed, you’ll often find yourself thinking “I want to be outside training right now!” at 11PM. You’ll also realize that some of the apparently counterproductive efforts by national and international governing bodies are nothing new, as all three runners deal with barriers erected by “The Powers That Be.” You’ll read about Bannister trying eek out that extra 1% by wearing lightweight shoes that are only good for three miles, or rubbing graphite on his spikes so that they pull more easily from the clay track, and realize that the idea of “marginal gains” is not a new concept pioneered by modern day cycling teams.
While one of them men becomes the first to run the mile on 3:59.4, and another one soon bests the record by an astonishing 2.5 seconds, the true climax of the story is when the two sub-four minute milers finally meet each other directly in competition. The sports pages and the fans all asked “Who will win, the runner with the incredible sustainable pace, or the one with the lightning fast finishing kick?” Cyclists can easily identify with the pain each man feels as pushes to be the first across the line.
Have a question for Coach Burke? A topic you would like to see covered? Head on over to his website CrankCycling.com to get in touch.
The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team has concluded an outstanding racing season, one that brought new opportunities and resulted in new successes. As the 2013 season came to a close, the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team announced the exciting news that the team would develop and launch an entirely new women’s program to race alongside the men in the 2014 season. With a reputation of success in team management and rider development, as well as a history of impressive race results, the news of a women’s program was received with great enthusiasm and expectation. As the roster of top-tier female riders was announced, all eyes turned to the new faces of the UnitedHealthcare Blue Train.
Women’s Roster: Winning out of the Gate
The women of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team hit the ground running and headed to the 2014 Tour Femenino de San Luis, their first race as a team. When the race ended and the team yielded two stage wins and the overall victory (Stage 1, Hannah Barnes; Stage 3 and Overall, Alison Powers), it was clear that a successful season was ahead. From there, the squad went on to achieve another stage win and overall victory at the Vuelta El Salvador, both achieved by climber extraordinaire Mara Abbott. The 2014 Tour of the Gila was another great early season success for the women, with Alison Powers winning the criterium and Mara Abbott taking victory in stages 1 and 5, sealing overall victory in the general classification. As the season went on and the bonds among team members became stronger, the women earned several high-profile criterium victories as they perfected their lead out train. At the 2014 Amgen Tour of California, sprinter Coryn Rivera took second on the opening circuit race, with teammate Alison Powers taking the win in the time trial on the following day. The women also participated in the first-ever La Course, a circuit race along the legendary Champs-Élysées in Paris, France, coinciding with the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France. Coryn Rivera earned 6th place on the world stage in Paris, bringing home the best young rider award for the team.
Men’s Roster: Raising the Bar in 2014
The male riders of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team expanded their European racing schedule in 2014 to participate in multiple WorldTour events, including Milan – San Remo, E3 Harelbeke, Paris-Roubaix, and La Fléche Wallonne. The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team rode bravely through these top-tier European races as protagonists, placing a rider in a breakaway or otherwise facilitating the day’s action, proving to fans and race organizers that the Blue Train is here to stay at the top of the sport with the depth, talent, and ambition to expand its presence at the highest level of racing. International results reflected these abilities with stage wins at the Tour de Langkawi (Stage 5, Brad White), Tour de Taiwan (Stage 1, Luke Keough), and Tour of Norway (Stage 2 win and 2nd Overall, Marc de Maar) as well as the KOM jersey at the Tour of Denmark (John Murphy). The team expanded into new races while maintaining a high level of success throughout the American racing schedule, earning a repeat win at the Philadelphia Cycling Classic (Kiel Reijnen) and multiple top-10 performances and most courageous rider jerseys at the Amgen Tour of California and Tour of Utah. Validation of the team’s hard work came at the 2014 USA Pro Challenge, when the team rode a tactically perfect opening stage, positioning Kiel Reijnen for the sprint victory on the streets of Aspen, Colorado. The stage win propelled Reijnen into the race leader’s yellow jersey, the sprint points leader’s green jersey, and the best Colorado rider’s blue jersey, while teammate Danny Summerhill was awarded the most aggressive rider jersey for his attacks throughout the stage. With the support of dedicated teammates, Reijnen protected the sprint points leader’s jersey through all seven stages, and proudly wore it after sprinting to 2nd in the downtown Denver finale.
One Team: Side-by-Side Success and Continued Criterium Domination
Despite multiple squads competing simultaneously on various continents, the criterium squad of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, known as the Blue Train, maintained the high level of success they’ve become famous for throughout the American criterium series. With the well-oiled machine that is the UnitedHealthcare lead out train, the riders took victories at the Boise Twilight Criterium, Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, Glencoe Grand Prix, all three races of B.C. Super Week, and many others.
The addition of a women’s roster brought a new energy and dynamic to the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team for 2014. At many of the races, the men and women were able to train and warm-up together; share tips, tactics, and course knowledge; cheer for each other during their races; then reflect on the results and support each other after the race. Racing together, one after another, the squads took dual victories at the Sunny King Criterium (Coryn Rivera and Carlos Alzate), Belmont Criterium (Alison Powers and Carlos Alzate), Novant Health Invitational Criterium (Hannah Barnes and Carlos Alzate), all three races of the Tulsa Tough Omnium (Race 1: Hannah Barnes and Ken Hanson; Race 2: Hannah Barnes and Luke Keough; Race 3: Coryn Rivera and Brad White), and all four races of the Gateway Cup (Races 1-3: Coryn Rivera and Ken Hanson; Race 4: Hannah Barnes and Ken Hanson).
2014 USA Cycling National Road Championships: Four Sets of Stars & Stripes
The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team went into the 2014 US National Road Championships with great momentum and high goals. Less than two weeks after dominating the Amgen Tour of California Women’s Time Trial, Alison Powers took to the starting ramp at the USA Cycling Professional National Championship Time Trial with hopes of earning the coveted stars and stripes jersey for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team. The 2014 course in Chattanooga, Tennessee was 30.9 kilometers long with rolling hills and technical turns. Powers had fantastic strength and stamina, allowing her to power through the undulating course with speed and precision. Top form, flawless equipment, and determination all converged for Powers, as she devoured the course and claimed the victory by a margin of 30 seconds. The team then went into the US Women’s Championship Road Race next with three riders and three podium threats – Mara Abbott, Katie Hall, and Alison Powers. Mara Abbott made her mark on the race early, winning the first queen of the mountains competition. Katie Hall launched a solo attack at 60 kilometers into the 104.8-kilometer race, claiming the the second queen of the mountains competition. Alison Powers bridged up to her teammate and at 10 kilometers to go, launched a massive attack out of the chase group, overtaking the breakaway. With a gap of only a few seconds, Powers unleashed her time trialing form and motored through the final circuits with the national title on the line. She crested the final climb with her advantage intact, then held it to the line and triumphantly finished with a huge smile. Her performance made history as Powers became the only woman to simultaneously hold the US national championship jersey in all three disciplines – the 2014 time trial and road race titles on top of Powers’ 2013 national criterium title. At the US National Criterium Champions in September, Powers was happy to support teammate and sprinter Coryn Rivera’s fight for the title. In the championship criterium, the women of the UnitedHealthcare went on the offensive early in the race, creating their own breakaways and solo attacks. After several attacks, responses from the rest of the peloton, counterattacks, and crashes, the women of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team engaged their well-practiced lead out train and positioned Rivera for the finale. Rivera was able to execute, sprinting to victory and keeping the stars and stripes within the team. Sporting director Rachel Heal commented, “It feels pretty amazing to have won all three titles in the first year of having a women’s component to the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, we knew we’d hired strong riders, but to be able to create the team chemistry and teamwork to bring those results is very satisfying.”
In the men’s race, John Murphy, Adrian Hegyvary, and Jeff Louder joined an early breakaway that would later gain a large enough advantage to lap the field. Always ready to adapt tactics to meet the race situation, the men of the UnitedHealthcare Blue Train adjusted to the unfolding race and positioned Murphy for the bunch sprint. The lead out was flawless and Murphy took the national criterium title, the fourth of the year for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team.
Achievements Beyond Racing
While the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team saw great success racing all over the world throughout 2014, their efforts and goals reached far beyond the podium. The team takes an active role in UnitedHealthcare’s mission to help people live healthier lives and creates opportunities to promote the benefits of exercise, nutrition and healthy living to people across the United States and internationally. Throughout the 2014 racing season, the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team made frequent appearances at local hospitals, schools and community events, while helping to raise funds for the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (www.uhccf.org), a nonprofit public charity that provides medical grants to children in need. The riders and staff would like to thank all of the partners and fans that made the remarkable 2014 season possible.
General Manager Mike Tamayo commented, “The 2014 season was spectacular. It was the first year with a women’s team, so there was a volatile moment of bringing in a women’s team into what was a men’s team but the integration was smooth, flawless, and perfect. Looking back at the season, part of our success came from our sponsors and all the fantastic support they offered throughout the year. We’re already working on 2015, so stay tuned because and have another incredible season
Colorado Springs, Colo. (October 8, 2014) — USA Cycling on Wednesday announced its 2015 USA Cycling National Criterium Calendar (NCC) and 2015 USA Cycling National Racing Calendar (NRC) . The premier domestic road cycling calendars sanctioned by USA Cycling, the sport’s national governing body, begin in March and continue through September with races across the United States.
Riders will compete for standings points tabulated for individual riders as well as teams. Following each week of racing, USA Cycling will post updated standings on each respective calendar page as well as distribute to media.
Increased from 16 to 19 events for 2015, the NCC begins March 21 when the action will be in Tampa, Fla., for the Gasparilla Criterium and Action Sports Festival and concludes Sept. 20, when the riders will toe the line in Hartford, Conn., to contest the Connecticut Cycling Festival. The 183 days in between will feature the fastest, most entertaining criterium racing in the country.
The second event of the NCC calendar is the Sunny King Criterium in Anniston, Ala., on March 28. The following week is highlighted by the Novant Health Invitational Criterium on April 11 in Charlotte, N.C. The criterium racing moves west to Dana Point, Calif., on May 3 as competitors will contest the Dana Point Grand Prix of Cycling before heading to Wilmington, Del., to compete in the Wilmington Grand Prix on May 16. The Tour of Somerville is the main event in Somerville, N.J., on May 25 before the focus shifts to a two-race weekend on May 30 with the Winston-Salem Classic Criterium in Winston-Salem, N.C., and the Glencoe Grand Prix in Glencoe, Ill. In early June, the spotlight focuses on Manhattan Beach, Calif., for the Chevron Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, and on Tulsa, Okla., for the Saint Francis Tulsa Tough on June 12-14.
The criterium action returns to the east coast when riders compete in the two-day Air Force Association Cycling Classic in Arlington, Va., on June 13-14. After a three-week break, the competition moves to Boise, Idaho, as the Andersen Banducci Twilight Criterium takes center stage on July 11. The peloton continues to go west to compete in the Littleton Criterium in Littleton, Colo., on July 18. On July 25, the riders will be in Lake Bluff, Ill., to compete in the Intelligentsia Cup. The action returns to the northeast on Aug. 15 when riders will compete in the Rochester Twilight Criterium in Rochester, N.Y., followed by the Chris Thater Memorial in Binghamton, N.Y., on Aug. 22. St. Louis, Mo., plays host to the the TSG Realty Gateway Cup on Sept. 4-7 before the penultimate race of the calendar, the TD Bank Mayor’s Cup, takes to the streets of Boston, Mass., on Sept. 19. The NCC wraps up the following day with the Connecticut Cycling Festival in Hartford.
Luke Keough (Sandwich, Mass./UnitedHealthcare) clinched the men’s title in the 2014 NCC men’s standings while Erica Allar (Tucson, Ariz./Colavita-Fine Cooking) topped the NCC women’s standings for the second straight year with 1,117 points. UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling rode away with the NCC men’s team standings with 3,040 points while Colavita-Fine Cooking posted 1,963 points to win the NCC women’s team standings.
The 2015 edition of the NRC boasts seven events, including three additional UCI races for both men and women, beginning April 8-12 with the Redlands Bicycle Classic in Redlands, Calif. The second event of the calendar is the Joe Martin Stage Race p/b Nature Valley UCI 2.2 event in Fayetteville, Ark., on April 23-26 before the focus shifts to Silver City, N.M., for the five-day Tour of the Gila, another UCI 2.2 race, from April 29-May 3. The following week features the UCI 1.2 Winston-Salem Cycling Classic in Winston-Salem, N.C., on May 31. The NRC action continues in Philadelphia where riders will compete in the Philly Cycling Classic, a UCI 1.2 race, on June 7 before heading to Minneapolis, Minn., to contest the North Star Grand Prix from June 17-21. After a long respite, the NRC calendar ends with the Thompson Bucks County Classic (UCI 1.2 men’s race only) in Doylestown, Pa., on Sept. 12.
The 2014 NRC individual standings winners were Travis McCabe (Tucson, Ariz./Team SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis), who topped the NRC men’s standings with 672 points and Lauren Stephens (Dallas, Texas/Team TIBCO-To the Top), who paced the NRC women’s standings with 934 points. Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies topped the NRC men’s team standings with 1,972 points while Team TIBCO-To the Top won dominated the NRC women’s team standings with 1,858 points.
October 13th | Minneapolis, MN
On October 7th, Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies teamed up with Plus One Health Management to assemble 49 Diamondback Viper youth bicycles for distribution to underprivileged youth in the Chicago area. The bicycles reached their new owners thanks to Chicago-based 501(c)3 organization Working Bikes, who partners with homeless transition, refugee resettlement, and youth empowerment programs to put bicycles to good use on the streets of Chicago.
Most of the volunteers had never built a bike – but thanks to help of team partners Park Tool and Diamondback, who provided simple-to-assemble frame sets, wheels, helmets, and tool kits, the event was a fun learning experience for all. The seminar also featured a talk and Q&A session with Optum p/b KBS sprinters Eric Young and Brad Huff, among other health & wellness professionals. The bike build was part of a multi-day health and wellness seminar for Plus One employees, who recently became the newest members of the Optum services family.
Eric Marcotte recently returned back to Arizona from Ponferrada, Spain where he was a part of the six-man team who represented the United States of America at the UCI Road World Championships at the end of September.
After spending some time unwinding and enjoying some much deserved time off from training and racing, we questioned Eric about his first worlds experience. As the current USA Road National Champion, Eric earned automatic selection for the team, a spot that Director Michael Creed believes was hard earned after the season Eric and the team have had in 2014.
Eric describes the experience as unbelievable and a blessing and hopes to bring some of the lessons learnt from the trip into his racing in 2015, where he has renewed his contract with Team SmartStop.
How was your first world’s experience?
I certainly feel blessed to be apart of such an incredible event. It’s an unbelievable feeling lining up with the likes that were on the start list.
Did you ever imagine that your season would end with you travelling to Spain to represent the USA?
Absolutely not. This whole year has been much more than ever expected, but also wonderful to see what is possible for a team.
Was this your first time racing in Europe? How was it different to racing in the USA?
For me it was my first time in Europe ever, so certainly first time racing. Level and depth of rider and field. As well as the way it is raced. Much more respect and etiquette for each other.
Eric Marcotte Talks World Championship
How long were you in Ponferrada for and did you get to do any sight seeing in between training etc?
I stayed north of Madrid in Mira Flores de la Sierra for a few days, then traveled on to Ponferrada for the next 5 days. Not a ton of sight seeing other than when out on the bike. It was a beautiful area with what I felt a great sense of history.
What were some of the things you did to prepare for the world championships?
For training i did a couple long days, and some efforts mimicking what the climbs were like out on the Ponferrada course.
What lessons can you bring back and apply to your season next year?
I’ll keep those to myself, and hopefully show what I learned on the road next year.
What was going through your head on the start line?
I was soaking it up, and in amazement how low my heart rate was.
After coming from Team SmartStop that has become such a family in 2014, how did team USA gel together?
I think everyone can tell that it was a great crew that always came to work, and together.
What are you looking forward to the most now that your 2014 season is over?
Just getting time to enjoy other things in life.
(Mondorf-les-Bains, Luxembourg) – After nine years at the top of the sport, Trek Factory Racing standout Andy Schleck announced this morning that he will retire from professional cycling. The young Luxembourger’s career was forced to an untimely end by the knee injury he sustained in a Tour de France crash earlier this year.
“I’m obviously disappointed to end my career like this,” said Schleck. “I would have liked to keep on fighting but my knee just doesn’t allow it. Since my crash in the UK there has hardly been any progress. While the ligaments have healed, the damaged cartilage is another story. I have been working hard on rehabbing the knee but came to the hard realization that at the risk of irreversibly injuring it, this is the best course of action.”
In his storied career, Schleck rode to victory on some of cycling’s biggest stages, stepping four times onto Grand Tour podiums. Among his many notable accomplishments, Schleck won the 2010 Tour de France and triumphed in the 2009 Liège-Bastogne-Liège after a courageous solo breakaway. Schleck highlights his win on the Galibier stage of the 2011 Tour de France as one of his most memorable achievements.
Though only 29 years old, Schleck has made a lasting impact on the sport, and his presence in the pro peloton will surely be missed. Well-loved by fans and teammates alike, Schleck’s legacy will be his good nature, strength of character, and sportsmanship. In his years at the highest level of the sport, Schleck distinguished himself as a humble, hard-working and earnest competitor.
“Andy was an instant and natural fit for the Trek family when we first met him with LEOPARD-TREK,” said Trek VP Joe Vadeboncoeur. “It has always been more about family than anything else at Trek, and so it is with Andy. On top of that, Andy is one of the most talented cyclists of all time. Many of my best days as a cycling fan have been while watching Andy race. We have celebrated the great days and endured the difficult ones alongside him. I know great things are ahead for Andy. He will always have friends and a family at Trek.”
At the unfortunate end of a career of limitless potential, Schleck is quick to keep things in perspective. “Cycling has been my life for many years and I will need time to figure out what I’d like to do. Luckily I can count on my family, friends, and Trek who have always supported me,” he said. “I am very happy to have trained and raced alongside my brother and to have made some of the best friends that I have. I have always said that cycling is not the beginning and the end of my life. I have a wonderful girlfriend and a wonderful son. I’m excited to find out what lies ahead.”
WorldTour climbing talent returns to US soil
October 7th | Minneapolis, MN
Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies today announces another major North American addition to their road roster, hot on the heels of three major Canadian singings last week. Garmin-Sharp’s Phil Gaimon will fly the colors of the Orange & Black in 2015 following a season racing across European roads in the WorldTour.
The 28 year old Columbus, Ohio native brings a significant amount of domestic and international experience to the program. Performance Director Jonas Carney pushed hard to bring a former standout of the domestic peloton back to compete primarily onto American soil.
“We feel very fortunate to be able to bring a rider of Phil’s caliber to our team,” said Carney. “After a full year of racing a the World Tour level, he will have certainly made some physical gains and he will bring more valuable tactical experience to an already well-rounded program.”
Gaimon’s experience in the fast paced, highly competitive Europe peloton will lend itself well to the roads he knows so well back in the United States.
“I learned a ton over there”, said Gaimon. “I’ve improved my pack and positioning skills, because I had to to survive. I learned better how to function as a teammate, and how to control a race based on the abilities of our riders. I also got stronger, which is always useful.”
Gaimon also noted that the Optum p/b KBS program aligns well with his personal philosophy on racing.
“There’s a ton of talent in North America, a huge pool of hard workers and clean riders. With the bigger races getting better every year, Optum p/b KBS has a great schedule. I’m pleased to be here – the team has always focused on developing North American riders who can win against WorldTour teams, and compete internationally to add further depth and experience.”
Gaimon’s impressive palmarès includes several notable finishes in recent years. A stage win and 2nd overall at Argentina’s UCI 2.1 ranked Tour de San Luis in 2014, an overall victory at the 2012 Redlands Classic, and 2nd place overall in 2013 at the climbing heavy Tour of the Gila in New Mexico highlight the list.
Carney also looks forward to mixing Gaimon’s proven ability in the mountains to recent signing Mike Woods’ rapidly growing ascending skills.
“With races like Gila, California, Colorado, and Utah being very important on our schedule next year, we wanted to build more depth in the climbing department this offeseason. Woods and Gaimon should be a great combination for those events and give us a lot of options when it goes uphill in 2015.”
With the World Championships returning to US soil in 2015 for the first time since 1986, Gaimon looks forward to an opportunity at the UCI Team Time Trial Championships in Richmond, VA next September.
“I haven’t done a TTT in a long time, but if I can hold Zirbel’s wheel and fit into that team, Worlds will be another great opportunity.”
Team Signs Canadians Guillaume Boivin, Pierrick Naud, and Mike Woods for 2015 Road Season
Boivin Returns to North American Soil After Two seasons in WorldTour
October 2nd | Minneapolis, MN
Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies announces its first major signings for next year’s road racing season today, coming in the form of three of Canada’s top young talents. Guillaume Boivin (Cannondale Pro Cycling), Pierrick Naud (Garneau – Québecor), and Mike Woods (5-Hour Energy) will all don orange and black for the first time in 2015.
Boivin, a WorldTour level one-day and sprint specialist, adds further depth and experience to a leadout unit that had its most success ever in 2014.
“We are very excited to bring Guillaume to our team – he’s a big talent that we tried to recruit when he was around 20 years old,” said Performance Director Jonas Carney. “Now he’s 25 and has several years of experience racing WorldTour events. That experience will be valuable during the big stage races here in North America – California, Utah, Colorado, and Alberta. We’ve always tried to put a focus on sprinting and our leadout train, and Guillaume gives us a lot more depth in that area.”
For Boivin, a native of Montreal, the signing is also a chance to reconnect with fast friends and former teammates Will Routley and Ryan Anderson. All three are known for their strong work ethic and versatility on the road.
“I’m really happy to be back racing with my fellow Canucks. I believe we all share a similar outlook on racing, in how hard we will push ourselves to win, whether for ourselves or for our teammates,” said Boivin. “Being a similar type of rider to Ryan (Anderson), I think we will be able to compliment each other like we did in the past to achieve success.”
Boivin brings along an impressive list of results, most notably his third place finish in the 2010 World Under-23 Road Race Championships, where he finished in a dead heat for the bronze with BMC Racing’s Taylor Phinney. After signing for Canadian pro continental outfit Spidertech in 2010, he began developing a taste for grueling one-day races: 6th place at the 2010 Philadelphia International Championship; 2nd at the 2010 Sparkassen Giro Bochum; 2nd at Ronde van Drenthe (UCI 1.1), 3rd at Tro-Bro Léon (UCI 1.1), and a pair of 4ths at GP Pino Cerami and Handzame Classic in 2012. His aggressive style and powerful finishing kick landed him a job with Cannondale Pro Cycling in 2013, where he played an important leadout role for Slovakian superstar Peter Sagan.
“Philly is still today one of the best memories I have racing my bike, so I’m really looking forward to go back there,” said Boivin. “I also think the UCI America Tour will be a big focus for me this year, as I haven’t raced primarily on North American soil for several years. I am very excited to see how things develop in 2015.”
Joining Boivin will be fellow countrymen Naud and Woods, bringing the grand total of Canucks on the Orange & Black to five. Naud, also a native of Quebec, is another strong sprinter with a stage win at this year’s Redlands Bicycle Classic and 2nd overall at the GP Cycliste Saguenay.
“Pierrick is a cagey young rider that we have been watching for a couple of years now,” said Carney. “His performance at Saguenay was eye opening this year, and we hope he can contest select field sprints and be a big engine in the leadout train.”
Woods, a pure climber from Ottawa, finished second in the punishing Mt. Megantic stage at this year’s Tour de Beauce, and was selected by Canada to compete in Quebec’s WorldTour series and the UCI World Championships, alongside a new teammate in Ryan Anderson. He played a pivotal role in both Quebec races, finding himself in the final breakaway in Quebec City and also making the elite selection in Montreal.
“Mike is another guy that we have been watching closely. He comes from a running background and has only been racing for a fews years, but in that short period of time he has become one of the most dangerous climbers in North America,” said Carney.
The three hires continue the men’s team’s tradition of fielding a 100% North American roster, which it has accomplished for the previous seven seasons.
“We are an American team, and it’s important to us that we support American cycling as much as possible,” said Carney. “There is so much talent here that is often overlooked, and we have also had incredible success choosing riders only from the US and Canada. These three new recruits should add to that mix perfectly.”
The rest of the 2015 Optum p/b KBS men’s and women’s rosters will be announced in the coming weeks.
With the 2014 road racing calendar drawing to a close last week at the UCI Road World Championships, Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies can reflect on its most successful season to date, one that included a combined 65 wins and 149 podiums for the men’s and women’s road teams and several prolific international stage wins and podium finishes. For Managing Director Charles Aaron, ’14 will stand out in the program’s 8-year climb through the ranks of American cycling.
“Since 2007 we have worked hard to build our program the right way, and our success this year speaks volumes about the effort of our athletes and staff to fulfill that vision,” said Aaron. “We won some of our biggest races ever this year. We also expanded on our Human-Powered Health initiative, working to get everyday people on their bikes and living more active lifestyles. We have an incredible group of partners who share our values, and that allows us to reach people in a unique way, which is very exciting for the future of the program.”
See a special photo retrospective from the team’s stellar year of road racing at optumprocycling.com.
“Big Three” Stage Wins and Hometown 4-Peat Highlight Year for Men
The Orange & Black men finish the year with 10 wins and 22 podiums in UCI events, a pair of stage wins and numerous top ten overall finishes at America’s “Big Three” of stage racing, and a successful defense of their US National Racing Calendar team title from 2013. In total, they finish with 32 wins, 65 podiums, and 142 top tens.
While breakaway ninja Will Routley used crafty tactics to score the Orange and Black their first ever 2.HC ranked stage win and the polkadot jersey at the Tour of California in May, it was a full team effort in stage five of August’s Tour of Utah that launched sprinter Eric Young to the top step of the podium for the men’s second stage win at the high altitude 2.1 ranked event.
Will Routley outsprinted his breakaway companions at the Tour of California to win the team’s first-ever UCI 2.HC ranked stage. Photo © Casey Gibson
Eric Young catapulted off of a hard charging leadout to win stage five of the Tour of Utah. Photo © Casey Gibson
“We have worked very hard for many years to develop a complete team with a good atmosphere where athletes can succeed,” said Men’s Performance Director Jonas Carney. “A stage win against WorldTour teams is always incredibly hard to pull of, and to have two this year at the biggest races on US soil is a big achievement for the program.”
Climbing ace Carter Jones had a breakout year, getting a season’s worth of momentum rolling with an overall victory after conquering the Gila Monster in New Mexico’s grueling SRAM Tour of the Gila. Jones stayed on pace with top international climbers as the summer rolled on, narrowly missing the top ten at the Tour of California (11th), finishing 7th overall at the Tour of Utah, and closing out the Big Three with 8th overall at the USA Pro Challenge.
Carter Jones consistently made selections alongside the world’s top climbers in America’s biggest stage races. Photo © Casey Gibson
“It takes a rare combination of focus, drive, and talent to be a great climber, and Carter has it. He rode extremely well this year against World Tour teams in some of the toughest races in the US,” said Carney. “It should come as no surprise that Carter has been getting lots of offers from Europe, and will be competing in the WorldTour next year. It’s always tough to say goodbye to someone with so much talent, but we couldn’t be happier for Carter.”
Ryan Anderson had another strong year for Optum p/b KBS, resulting in his selection to Team Canada for the world championship road race. After bringing the team home in yellow for the fourth straight year at the North Star Grand Prix, he finished fifth overall, second in a stage, and defended his Top Canadian Rider jersey on home soil at the Tour of Alberta. Anderson also won the Top Canadian prize at the WorldTour ranked Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec.
Women Stand On Historic Podiums In United Kingdom, France
The women finish 2014 with 7 UCI wins and 15 podiums, three national titles, and a year highlighted by historic moments – winning the team classification at the inaugural Women’s Tour of Britain, England’s highest ever ranked women’s stage race; a podium for Leah Kirchmann at La Course by Le Tour de France alongside superstars Marianne Vos and Kirsten Wild; and 4th in the world championship team time trial, missing the podium by just six seconds. In total, the women brought home 33 wins, 84 podiums, and 159 top tens in 2014.
“We really focused on racing as a team this year, no matter the circumstances,” said first-year Women’s Performance Director Kevin Field. “The team responded to pressure from a stellar field at the Women’s Tour in Britain, standing on the podium at the end of the week in a race that was televised across Europe. I think that helped them stay confident against the level of competition you see overseas, and our result at Worlds showed that growing confidence. It bodes well for the growth of our program in 2015.”
Janel Holcomb, Leah Kirchmann, and Lauren Hall celebrate together after winning best overall team at the inaugural Women’s Tour of Britain. Photo © Sam Wiebe
The women line up on the starting ramp at the UCI Road World Championships in Ponferrada, Spain. The finished the team time trial just six seconds off of the podium. Photo © Casey Gibson
Canadian star Kirchmann had a record breaking season, becoming the first woman in Canadian history to hold consecutive national titles in the road race, individual time trial, and criterium. Her ever-growing fitness culminated on the Champs-Élysées, when she battled to a podium at La Course, shoulder to shoulder with world champion Vos. Kirchmann was selected by Team Canada to contest the time trial and road race at the world championships, and to compete in Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games last June.
“Leah showed this year that she is a force to be reckoned with,” said Field. “What she did at La Course and at Canadian Nationals shows her maturity and patience as a rider. Great things are in store for her and her teammates in the coming years, and we are definitely looking forward to the Olympics in 2016.”
Lauren Hall took the biggest win of her career this year in Belgium’s classic Gent-Wevelgem. The win helped propel Hall to a spot with Team USA in the world championship road race, where she competed against Kirchmann, if only for a few hours. Young sprinting talent Brianna Walle also showed her talent on the international stage, winning the general classification and sprint classification in the Czech Republic’s Tour de Feminin stage race. Hall, Kirchmann, and Walle should spearhead a powerful finishing kick for the team in 2015.
Kirchmann stands atop one of her three Canadian national championship podiums with teammate Denise Ramsden. Kirchmann became the first Canadian in history to sweep the road titles. Photo © Rob Jones
Kirchmann sprinted to a third place finish on the Champs-Élysées at the historic La Course by Le Tour de France. Photo © Anton Vos
Team Continues to Grow Human-Powered Health In Communities Around the US
In addition to its successes in the saddle, the team continued to work off the bike to promote healthy lifestyle choices as part of the Human-Powered Health initiative. The team worked with the San Francisco 49ers to build and distribute bicycles to at-risk youth in the Bay Area for the second consecutive year. Each child was presented with a bicycle, helmet, and lock, and joined team athletes and staff for a clinic on how to safely use their new two-wheeled friends.
The team also partnered with Denver Public Schools to offer up a free bicycle to every child who could record perfect attendance on the year. When the final bell rang in June, 25 children were absence-free and went home with a brand new Diamondback – in 2013, only two students reached this goal. The team also continued its partnerships with Ronald McDonald House, the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure, and the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Fund.
“Working in communities with the team and getting people engaged with Human-Powered Health is as rewarding as winning a big race,” added Aaron. “It is always good to have a group of partners that understands that, and we can’t thank them enough for what we accomplished this year, both on and off the bike.”
Tom Zirbel and Scott Zwizanski help man a lemonade stand at the Minneapolis Ronald McDonald House. Photo © Andy Nelson
Team riders and staff presented 25 Denver area public schoolchildren who recorded perfect attendance with a free Diamondback bicycle.
2014 UCI PODIUMS
1st – Overall – Tour de Feminin – O cenu Ceskeho, Czech Republic (UCI 2.2) – Brianna Walle
1st – Canadian National Championships Criterium, Lac Megantic, QC. – Leah Kirchmann
1st – Canadian National Championships Road Race, Lac Megantic, QC. – Leah Kirchmann
1st – Canadian National Championships Time Trial, Lac Megantic, QC. – Leah Kirchmann
1st – Gent-Wevelgem In Flanders Fields, Belgium (UCI 1.2) – Lauren Hall
1st – Sprint Competition – Tour de Feminin – O cenu Ceskeho, Czech Republic (UCI 2.2) – Brianna Walle
1st – Stage 5 – Tour de Feminin – O cenu Ceskeho, Czech Republic (UCI 2.2) – Brianna Walle
1st – Tour de Delta Road Race, Delta, B.C. (UCI 1.2) – Leah Kirchmann
1st – Grand Prix Gatineau, Quebec, Canada (UCI 1.1) – Denise Ramsden
1st – Team Classification – Friend’s Life Women’s Tour, Britain (UCI 2.1) – Team
1st – Gent-Wevelgem In Flanders Fields, Belgium (UCI 1.2) – Lauren Hall
2nd – Stage 3 – Tour de Feminin – O cenu Ceskeho, Czech Republic (UCI 2.2) – Brianna Walle
2nd – Stage 2 – Tour de Feminin – O cenu Ceskeho, Czech Republic (UCI 2.2) – Brianna Walle
2nd – Chrono Gatineau, Quebec, Canada (UCI 1.1) – Leah Kirchmann
2nd – Winston-Salem Cycling Classic, Winston-Salem, NC. (UCI 1.2) – Joelle Numainville
3rd – La Course by Le Tour de France (UCI 1.1) – Leah Kirchmann
3rd – Stage 2 – BeNe Ladies Tour, Netherlands (UCI 2.2) – Brianna Walle
3rd – Philadelphia Cycling Classic, Philadelphia, PA. (UCI 1.1) – Lauren Hall
1st – Best Canadian – Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec (1.UWT) – Ryan Anderson
1st – Best Canadian – Tour of Alberta (UCI 2.1) – Ryan Anderson
1st – Stage 5 – Tour of Utah (UCI 2.1) – Eric Young
1st – Tour de Delta Road Race, Delta, B.C. (UCI 1.2) – Jesse Anthony
1st – Stage 2 – Grand Prix Cycliste de Saguenay, Quebec, Canada (UCI 2.2) – Eric Young
1st – Stage 1 – Grand Prix Cycliste de Saguenay, Quebec, Canada (UCI 2.2) – Eric Young
1st – KOM Classification – Amgen Tour of California (UCI 2.HC) – Will Routley
1st – Stage 4 – Amgen Tour of California (UCI 2.HC) – Will Routley
1st – Overall – Tour of the Gila, Silver City, NM. (UCI 2.2) – Carter Jones
1st – Stage 6 – Vuelta Mexico Telmex, Mexico (UCI 2.2) – Eric Young
2nd – US National Championships Time Trial – Tom Zirbel
2nd – Stage 5 – Tour of Alberta (UCI 2.1) – Ryan Anderson
2nd – Tour de Delta Road Race, Delta, B.C. (UCI 1.2) – Ryan Anderson
2nd – Stage 1 – Tour de Beauce, Quebec, Canada (UCI 2.2) – Eric Young
2nd – Team Classification – Tour of the Gila, Silver City, NM. (UCI 2.2) – Team
2nd – Stage 4 – Tour of the Gila, Silver City, NM. (UCI 2.2) – Bjorn Selander
2nd – Stage 3 – Tour of the Gila, Silver City, NM. (UCI 2.2) – Tom Zirbel
2nd – Stage 2 – Tour of the Gila, Silver City, NM. (UCI 2.2) – Eric Young
2nd – Stage 5 – Vuelta Mexico Telmex, Mexico (UCI 2.2) – Tom Zirbel
3rd – Thompson Bucks County Classic, Doylestown, PA. (UCI 1.2, NRC) – Jesse Anthony
3rd – Stage 1 – Tour of Alberta (UCI 2.1) – Ryan Anderson
3rd – Stage 3 – Tour of Utah (UCI 2.1) – Eric Young
3rd – Stage 2 – Tour de Beauce, Quebec, Canada (UCI 2.2) – Carter Jones
3rd – Stage 5 – Tour of the Gila, Silver City, NM. (UCI 2.2) – Will Routley
3rd – Stage 2 – Volta ao Alentejo/Crédito Agricola Costa Azul, Portugal (UCI 2.2) – Ryan Anderson