Optum rider eyeing WorldTour berth
Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies' Eric Young, the 2011 and 2013 US pro criterium champion, looks good in the green jersey of the best sprinter at the Tour of Alberta. But the jersey is only on loan from Cannondale's Peter Sagan, who is also in yellow and can't wear both at the same time.
So Young, who finished second to Sagan during the stage 1 finale in Camrose, will keep plugging away at the intermediate sprints and finishes in hopes that he can take the jersey home for real by the end of the week. It's a tall order for the 24-year-old who got into cycling at Indiana University, where he won three editions of the iconic Little 500 bicycle race that was immortalized in the 1979 Academy Award-winning movie Breaking Away.
Young trails Sagan, who has two wins and a third place so far this week, by four points in the sprint competition and tried to make up some ground by taking the second intermediate sprint during Thursday's stage 2.
"I found myself up there for that second one, so there's no reason not to go for it," he said. "It's good to shake out the legs a little bit. But Sagan is on the podium again today, so he's going to get a little more of an advantage on that. But we'll see how the week goes. I'll definitely be looking out for it, but I don't think it's going to be a focus for the team or anything."
After graduating from the university and saying good-bye to his "Cutters" teammates, Young signed with Bissell Pro Cycling for the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He moved to Optum at the start of this year and has had a good run.
Besides notching his second criterium title in just three years as a Continental pro, he took two stages earlier this year at the Tour of Korea, finished fourth during stage 1 at the Tour of Utah and grabbed another fourth-place finish at Portugal's Vuelta Ciclista a La Rioja while leading out teammate Ken Hanson.
Young has a contract with Optum for next season, so he's not under pressure to perform for a new ride, but he's motivated by his goal of ultimately moving to the WorldTour like current teammate Chad Haga will next season.
"Nah, there's no pressure for this next year, but it's always good to get noticed at these big races by the Pro Tour teams," he said. "I'm definitely looking forward to getting my shot in the next couple of years at that level. So it's always good to put yourself out there and get noticed, even if it's at the end of the year."
Young will likely have to go for green without a lot of support from his team, which is focused on the general classification placings for Haga and Tom Zirbel, who are currently eighth and 12th, respectively. But he said the team will definitely continue to hunt stage wins on the relatively flat courses in Alberta.
"We have three of our best sprinters here," he said. "So we'll just kind of keep trying for those sprints and see how it goes."
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