American sprinter Daniel Holloway will make his return to the professional ranks when he joins his new Amore & Vita team at this weekend's Philly Cycling Classic. The 26-year-old had dropped back to the amateur level, racing for Mike's Bikes/Incase after not renewing with the British Raleigh squad, but strong results earlier this season caught the attention of Amore & Vita's directeur sportif, Phil Cortes.
"I talked to Phil last year, and he was interested," Holloway said, but nothing came of the conversation until earlier this year "when their schedule grew, and they needed a few more riders for the second half of the season."
Holloway said the call-up was unexpected, but that the Mike's Bikes team supported the move. "I can't thank Mike's Bikes enough - it was a great experience, and the family atmosphere on the team really helped me enjoy riding my bike again. I hadn't put out any feelers yet, I was in a happy place with the team and was looking forward to the Tour of America's Dairyland and criterium nationals.
"But the team's whole goal is to move the guys who want to be professionals into the pro ranks, and my goal was to get the kind of results and exposure on the team to get a contract in 2014, it just happened a little sooner."
After netting his first win in the Madera County Stage Race criterium in early March, Holloway raced in the San Dimas and Redlands stage races before heading back to Northern California for Sea Otter, where he claimed the victory on the final stage on the Laguna Seca circuit.
Since then, he's added the Wente Classic and Cat's Hill Classics to the victory column, and has dropped enough weight that he was able to win the Berkeley Hills Road Race, something that bodes well for his form ahead of the newly re-designed Philadelphia course.
"The Berkeley Hills Road Race had something like 8500 feet of climbing, so I'm going uphill pretty well," Holloway said. The Philadelphia race will now finish at the top of the Manayunk Wall, a half-mile long ascent that averages 8.2%, and kicks up to an almost 16% gradient, instead of the traditional flat finish on Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
"I'm pretty confident I can get a result, although I'm not sure I can win against guys like Luis Amaran (Jamis-Hagens Berman), but it's the getting to the Wall that is always chaotic. If I can get into position, I think I can get a result, but I also have no problem working for the team if someone else is feeling good."
That team includes riders from a variety of countries and cultures - the team is registered in Ukraine, but also includes riders from Israel, Mexico, Latvia, Italy, Estonia, Canada, Iran and Poland.
"Most of the guys speak pretty good English, which is good for me. It's a pretty good mix."
The team for the US races in Philadelphia and the US Air Force Cycling Classic will include Holloway, Volodymyr Starchyk (Ukraine), David Boily (Canada), Israeli champion Anton Mikhailov, Jaroslaw Dabrowski (Poland) and the Latvian Viesturs Luksevics.
After the US races, Holloway will go on to race the Tour de Beauce and the Tour of Qinghai Lake before going on to Italy for the latter part of the season.
"The team tends to race a sort of 'off the beaten path' schedule in Europe, doing a lot of smaller one-day and stage races. It's a good opportunity to get my feet wet, get back into the rhythm of racing in Europe again, and maybe collect some UCI points.
"Now it's up to me to make the best of it, to either attract the interest of teams or get enough results and make the team happy so they'll renew my contract past December 31.
"I always wanted to be back racing in Europe full time. It's exciting, but I'm also a bit nervous - it's been two years since I really raced over there. It's a new, fresh feeling - I feel kind of like a junior again."