Title sponsor Rally has given the former Optum Pro Cycling team new funding and a new orange look for 2016, but their overall objectives remain the same: to win bike races on the domestic calendar. Their sprinter Eric Young is just the man for the job, and he is aiming to bring the team success on the national calendar, and at the Tour of California, Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Challenge.
“My goals have always been to have success at the biggest races available to me, which means I am very focused on all three major US races,” Young told Cyclingnews in an interview over the phone ahead of Rally Cycling's official training camp. “Therefore, my ambitions are the same as the last few years: to win a stage of California, Utah, and Colorado.”
Young’s drive to win stages at the three bigger US stage races stems from his previous success over the past two years, particularly at the Tour of Utah where he has won two stages; stage 5 into Kamas in 2014 and stage 4 into Heber Valley in 2015.
“I’ve become very fond of the Tour of Utah over the past two years through the pain and success that its beautiful roads have brought me,” Young said. “And of course, having California earlier in the season makes it the first major goal for most domestic riders. “
Aside from his podium performances against WorldTour teams while they are racing in North America, Young is a fairly regular winner on the domestic and international circuits. He’s won two stages of the Tour of the Gila, two stages at Tour of Korea, two stages at the Grand Prix Cycliste Saguenay, Vuelta a Mexico and he won the White Spot Delta Road Race, all UCI races in the past two seasons.
Young said he'd like to continue progressing in UCI-sanctioned events, where he believes that he still has room to develop as a sprinter.
“I do see myself continuing to improve at the UCI level,” he said. “Every kind of race can be challenging and satisfying, but I do find more personal satisfaction in winning at the UCI level against an international field. There is plenty of room for me to improve, so I’ve got lots of work ahead of me to do that consistently.”
Rally Cycling director Jonas Carney picked up Young in 2013 to race for Optum after he had already spent two seasons racing on the Continental team Bissell. During his first two seasons as a professional (2011 and 2012), he said he hadn’t yet envisioned himself being competitive against an international field.
“When I started on Optum, I would never have thought I’d have been able to win a stage of a race like Utah,” he said. “Through Optum and Jonas Carney’s belief in my development, I’ve been able to improve steadily each and every year of my career.
“I get a lot of personal satisfaction in discovering what races are contestable for me in a new season. Equally important is the team’s focus on sprinting success, which obviously impacts my personal performance a lot.
“The guys on this team have gone extremely deep for me in the past, and I’m very excited about the possibility of returning that favor by helping my teammates reach as much success as I can in 2016.”
Young has spent the last three season happily co-existing with fellow sprinter Ryan Anderson, but the Canadian has since moved up to the Professional Continental ranks with Direct Energie, leaving Young with a bigger sprint role.
“Ryan and I were able to work well together by covering a larger span of races than one of us could by ourselves due to our different skill sets,” Young said. “I’m excited for him getting an opportunity to race in Europe, which I think is something he’s wanted for a long time.”
Young said that he is not the team’s only sprinter now that Anderson has moved to Europe, and that the team will also rely on Brad Huff, Pierrick Naud, and Shane Kline. “We will be focused on winning sprints at every level of racing we do,” Young said.
“With Ryan leaving the team, it should create an opportunity for someone like Pierrick Naud or Shane Kline to try and make select lead groups and sprint for the win.
“Every rider has slightly different strengths and weaknesses, and there won’t be a direct replacement for Randy, but I do think we have the ability to contest just as many if not more sprints than we have in the past.”
Rally Cycling will spend time racing internationally starting with La Méditerranéenne from February 11-14. They will also start Vuelta Mexico Telmex, GP Liberty Seguros, Volta ao Alentejo and Settimana Internazionale Coppi E Bartali.
Asked if he, too, would like a shot at racing on a higher-level European-based team, or even a WorldTour team some day, Young said. “Every rider’s career path is unique, and I recognize the inconsistencies in my performances over the past few years. I do have aspirations to race in Europe more, and I do believe I’m capable of that, but making that jump, getting hired, and creating a successful transition is an entirely different challenge than just being a good bike racer in the US.
“I feel extremely satisfied with my accomplishments and the challenges that US racing has given me, and honestly, I could see myself racing here and continuing to improve for my entire career. That being said, if given an opportunity to race at the highest level of the sport that I love, I would jump at it.”