Following its most successful season to date, Holowesko-Citadel will shake up its roster with four new additions heading into 2017.
Sprinter Ty Magner will return to the the team after riding with UnitedHealthcare for one season, and his current UHC teammate John Murphy will follow him to the US Continental squad that formerly raced as Hincapie Sportswear. Joining Magner and Murphy among the 2017 signings will be TJ Eisenhart, who comes to Holowesko from the BMC Development Team, and Ruben Companioni from Team Jamis.
Holowesko-Citadel will lose the services of talented all-rounder Travis McCabe, who signed with UnitedHealthcare, while Robin Carpenter, Oscar Clark, Andz Flaksis and Joe Lewis will return. The rest of the 2017 roster remains in flux as Holowesko-Citadel Director Thomas Craven sorts through the available personnel.
McCabe helped carry the team early in the season before the rest of the riders hit full stride, Craven said, but Magner and Murphy should help fill that void next year.
"I think we got both of those guys at a good time in their careers," Craven said. "Ty's got a lot to give, and I think Murphy does too. He's proven in the past that he's a finisher over some big climbs, and I think that's sort of our replacement for McCabe. We kind of got a two-for-one, but I think with that one-two punch we'll definitely fill a gap."
Magner raced for Craven's team from 2012 through 2015 before making the switch to UnitedHealthcare, where he landed multiple criterium wins but did not flourish as hoped in the road races. Craven said he was excited to welcome Magner back into the fold.
"He jumped to UHC last year looking for something different, and I think he realized that something different is not always the best thing," Craven said. "Just riding with your friends and having a lot of fun I think is the goal of everybody, so I think he saw that, and from the beginning of the year he was not good with that team's dynamic."
Murphy, who has ridden with UnitedHealthcare since 2013, earned the Pro Continental team's first two wins of the season this year, taking stage victories at the Herald and Sun Tour in January and the Tour de Langkawi in February. He scored domestic wins at the Winston-Salem Criterium in May and at the Tour of America's Dairyland in June, but he competed in no road races between the Philadelphia Cycling Classic on June 6 and the Tour of Alberta in September. Craven said Murphy was looking for a change next season.
"With Murphy, he just lives right up the street as well," said Craven, whose team is based in Greenville, South Carolina. "He's only 45 minutes away from Greenville in Brevard, and he's from Athens originally and used to ride with those guys, so he's sort of one of our guys that we've known for a longtime anyway.
"He's a smart guy, and it's just the personalities and stuff and how everyone gets along. He'll definitely mix well with our team. That's what I found out this year."
Eisenhart, 22, was the most-recent addition to the 2017 Holowesko roster after a potential deal with Joey Rosskopf fell through when the former team rider won the Tour du Limousin with BMC Racing.
"We were going to bring Joey back," Craven said. "We were working with him and it looked pretty good, but then that idiot goes off and wins [Tour du] Limousin and got taken back into the BMC fold. That left Eisenhart, who was going to get that spot, without a contract.
"He's a young guy, and he said he really wants to win some races and he likes the way we race, so I'm looking forward to bringing him into the mix as well."
Craven also added Companioni, the 26-year-old Cuban who raced with Team Jamis this year and won the opening stage at the Redlands Bicycle Classic with a daring solo attack. At the Tour of Utah in August, Companioni joined Holowesko's Carpenter in a two-man move that stayed clear to the finish in Torrey, where Carpenter took the win.
"He's been in a lot of the same races we do," Craven said. "He's a good guy and we have a lot of respect for him and the way he races. Again, he's another smart race finisher – not necessarily the guy that you're always thinking is going to win the race, but I think on the right team and the right environment, we'll be able to bring a little more out of him. He's a smart rider and doesn't classify himself as a 'something.' He's a bike racer, and that's really what I see in him."
Keeping the momentum rolling
Craven said that although the team was "misfiring" in the first half of the season, everything began to fall into place starting at July's Cascade Cycling Classic, where Carpenter seized the overall race lead on the final day. Carpenter continued his roll with the stage win in Utah, where he also wore yellow for a day. McCabe added another victory in Utah, setting the stage for the team's biggest-ever result at the Tour of Alberta.
In the UCI 2.1 Canadian race earlier this month, Carpenter took the overall lead from Rally Cycling's Evan Huffman during the time trial on the penultimate day, leading 2015 overall winner Bauke Mollema and his powerful Trek-Segafredo team by just one second heading into the challenging and tough-to-defend Edmonton circuit race.
What appeared to be a daunting task – a Continental team defending a one-second lead from a WorldTour squad and its Grand Tour-contending leader – turned into just another fun day on the bike for the Holowesko riders, however, as they covered the race well and helped Carpenter secure the win.
"Those guys were so freakin' cool about it. It was just amazing," Craven said.
"I was more stressed out the first five laps than I was the last three laps, because I didn't know how they were going to react in the beginning. But it was evident they were super cool. What happened was Miguel [Byron], who is one of my younger riders – you know we don't have radios because we can't afford them, so no contact and they just had to figure out what was going on – Miguel slid back on the steep hill. I was watching him come back so I could tell him who was in the break and what was going on. The sucker pulls a wheelie from the field and rides it all the way back to our car. That's when I realised they probably had this under control."
Holowesko-Citadel closed out the season – and seized the lead in the UCI America Tour – with a dominant display at the Reading 120, where Oscar Clark took the win ahead of Jamis' Eric Marcotte, and the team placed four riders in the top five. Craven said it was an embarrassment of riches.
"I heard all the stories on the day," he said. "It was pretty funny. Oscar, of course, was on a mission. He was just going crazy in the break the whole day. Then at the end we had three guys in that second group, which included Huffman and [Rally Cycling's Danny] Pate. Basically everybody just dropped themselves from that group, they all went so hard. Then finally at the end it was just Huffman going as hard as he could. Then [Holowesko's] Andzs [Flaksis] attacked that group and our guys went around Huffman. He actually yelled at them, 'I hate you guys,' when he couldn't catch them.
"I think they were looking at the America Tour results and said, 'Yeah, we need 100 points to pass Silber.' Then they got 100 points the next day."
Holowesko-Citadel p/b Hincapie Sportswear 2017 roster announcements so far:
John Murphy (UnitedHealthcare)
Ty Magner (UnitedHealthcare)
TJ Eisenhart (BMC Development Team)
Ruben Companioni (Team Jamis)