The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team has big ambitions heading into the 2011 season with its recently-earned UCI Pro Continental status, adding some international events to its race calendar, signing new talent such as Charly Wegelius, Davide Frattini and Chris Jones, and even switching bike sponsors to UK-based Boardman Bikes.
"The Boardman brand wanted to associate themselves with a team that wanted to use technology to its highest," said team manager Mike Tamayo. "They also wanted to break at a global level and we were leaving the US domestic scene and tackling international bike racing and they are leaving the UK to tackle international sales. We were both about to break at a global level so it seemed like a logical step."
For road events, team riders can select between two carbon rigs – the lighter SLR or the aero-profile Air – and not surprisingly, seasoned climbing specialist Wegelius has chosen the former as his primary machine.
Boardman's SLR incorporates a number of features common at this level of the sport, including a tapered head tube, a BB30 integrated bottom bracket, internal cable routing, squared-off tube profiles, and big chain stays matched to smaller seat stays for a stiff-yet-comfortable chassis.
SRAM fits each bike with its complete Red group (with the common exception of a steel-caged front derailleur for faster shifting) and seating and handlebar bits all come courtesy of Ritchey. Although Ritchey makes nearly all of its main component options in lightweight carbon fibre, Wegelius and the team have decided on aluminum construction throughout.
Team bikes add more carbon in the wheels, though, with Enve Composites clincher – not tubular – rims wrapped in Maxxis rubber and laced with Sapim CX-Ray bladed spokes to Chris King's latest R45 road hubs with fetching orange-anodised shells. Finishing things off are Speedplay Zero Stainless pedals, carbon fibre Dave-O bottle cages from Arundel, Cateye Strada Wireless computers, and a clamp-on AceCo K-Edge chain watcher.
Despite the slightly heavier Ritchey bits and clincher rims and even without the missing Cateye computer (team bikes were built just prior to the pictures being taken), Wegelius's bike still comes in just under the UCI minimum weight at just 6.74kg (14.86lb).
As fancy as the Boardman is, veteran Wegelius is nevertheless more concerned with getting his fit just right. After all, biomechanics cannot only affect overall performance but can also cause injury if they're not dialed in.
"I don't have any particular requirements concerning the bikes," he told us. "As I get older I find myself being more and more demanding regarding the set up of bike position. Nowadays riders have so many bikes, at home, at races etc that it is important to get them all the same."
The team will be looking to Wegelius to transfer some of that experience to some of its younger riders in the coming months and the hardworking domestique seems happy to help.
"Speaking to the manager, Mike Tamayo, I realised that this could be a new, exciting project for me, that demanded more of me than just riding a bike," he said recently on his blog.
"They needed a good climber, but they were also interested in my experience and knowledge, and were keen to see me help their younger riders. I hope to find a fresh, new environment, where I can learn new things, but also a place where I can have a hand in creating something worthwhile."
Chris Boardman himself will act as a mentor as well, especially in his time trial specialty, and between the two of them – not to mention the team's returning veterans – Wegelius and crew look to have good company as they tackle competition abroad this year.
"Boardman was a time trialing guru for years and he was winning records that others only wished they could," said Tamayo. "Not only is he applying his experiences to the technology of the bike but as a pro racer, dealing with the stresses of being a top-level bike racer. We are looking forward to seeing some of his expertise applied technically and some of the guys are looking forward to just riding their bikes with him and getting to learn from him."