US Continental team Elevate-KHS has bolstered its sprint train significantly for 2019, adding two-time US criterium champion Eric Young from Rally and welcoming back Mexican Ulises Castillo after he spent two years with the now-defunct Jelly Belly-Maxxis team.
Elevate-KHS finalised its roster this week with the announcement of four new signings, including Young, Castillo, Kyle Swanson and two-time Canadian U23 time trial champion Adam Roberge.
Young, who was US criterium champion in 2011 and 2013, has proven to be one of the top North American sprinters over his career, winning stages at the Tour of Korea, GP Cycliste de Saguenay, Vuelta Mexico, Tour of Utah and the Starsko Proljeće in Croatia.
“Eric brings a high level of leadership and hunger to our program," said team director Heath Blackgrove. "He is really fired up to prove he is still the fastest sprinter in America, and his commitment on and off the bike is unparalleled. We could not have picked a better leader for our younger riders to emulate."
Young 29, has been competing with USA Cycling's team pursuit squad with an eye toward the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, and he said the Elevate-KHS program is a good fit, especially with his Olympic goal.
"It’s a group of young, humble and hungry bike racers that have proven to have the most committed lead out train in the US," he said. "I’m hoping to add my strengths to the team, share what I’ve learned with the guys and make a bunch of new memories by winning some big races. The collaboration between the USA national team and the Elevate-KHS will allow me to maximize my opportunities to earn a spot on the Olympic team for 2020.”
Team manager Paul Abrahams said Elevate-KHS is fully behind its riders' Olympic aspirations.
"Our program has developed a solid relationship with US national team track endurance coach Clay Worthington, from USA Cycling, which ensures a clear and well defined pathway to Tokyo for our endurance track athletes, Gavin Hoover and Eric Young."
Castillo, 26, who returns to the team after two years with the Jelly Belly, finished second overall in the 2018 Tour of Xingtai in China and wore the KOM jersey at the Ras Tailteann in Ireland for four days. The 2018 Tour of Utah was a highlight stateside, with three top 10 finishes and a second-place finish on Stage 1 in Cedar City.
“Ulises brings such a positive vibe to the team, and he is such a versatile rider who excels in hard UCI road races and US criteriums, that we had to get him back,” said team co-owner John McAllister. "We expect Ulises to play a vital role winning races and being a leader on the road.
Castillo said he was excited to be back with the program.
"For me, it is like returning home to family," he said. "I am working hard in this off season to get back to the top step of the podium and help out my teammates as much as possible."
The team has also added to its time trial firepower with the signing of Roberge, 21, from Silber Pro Cycling.
"I’m more than thrilled to be a part of Elevate-KHS for the upcoming year," Roberge said. "I have already received a warm welcome from riders and staff and I’m super enthusiastic about improving my racing ability. I’m confident that the team support will allow me to reach my 2019 goals, which include winning an UCI stage race and scoring a top five at TT worlds."
Roberge represented Canada this year in the world championships in Innsbruck, Austria, and at both WorldTour races in Quebec and Montreal.
“We started having conversations with Adam in June and could not be more impressed with his commitment and desire to reach the top of level of the sport," Abrahams said. "He is without a doubt already one of the best time trialist in North America, while his positioning and racecraft in road races continues to improve. Adam is really going to thrive in our positive team environment, which focuses on teaching, communication, teamwork and commitment to the details."
The team completed its 2019 roster with the addition of Swanson, who joins Elevate-KHS from the amateur Elbowz Racing team. The 21-year-old had a breakout 2018 season, winning seven races, and he stood out as one of the top young talents coming out of Texas.
“We are always looking to give young passionate athletes the opportunity to challenge themselves and become a part of our organization,” McAllister said.
Riders returning to the team from the 2018 roster include Jordan Cheyne, Gavin Hoover, Brian McCulloch and George Simpson.
“These are truly the tough guys that do the dirty work which enables us to win races," Abrahams said. "The sprinters and climbers might receive the glory, but without our core group of strong guys chasing, pulling, leading out, getting bottles and putting them into position, nothing happens. We are really excited about the roster we have created for the 2019 season and look forward to many victories this upcoming year."
Elevate-KHS for 2019: Sam Bassetti, Ulises Castillo, Jordan Cheyne, Gavin Hoover, Brian McCulloch, James Piccoli, Adam Roberge, Alfredo Rodriguez, George Simpson, Kyle Swanson, Eric Young