Team prepares to make an impact at the Amgen Tour of California
Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth held their team training camp along the western seaboard’s sunny beaches of southern California, a sharp contrast to last month’s winter meet-and-greet held on the slopes of Winter Park, Colorado. According to directeur sportif, Jonas Carney, the fifteen-man roster is tasked with logging in more than 30 hours of warm weather riding during the seven-day camp.
“This will be our fourth training camp in Oxnard, California,” Carney told Cyclingnews. “We've found it to be the perfect location and atmosphere for our team. The weather is ideal and the training is phenomenal. There is no place in southern California where the riding is better than the Santa Monica Mountains. It doesn't hurt that the team is housed on one of the nicest stretches of beach. For the last two years we have been fortunate enough to find a house right on the beach that can accommodate the entire team.”
The team is making use of a rented house in Oxnard, located on the outskirts of Santa Monica. According to Carney, the riders prefers the home-style atmosphere with a kitchen for cooking dinners each night and a feel that is more convenient than spending a week in a hotel rooms.
The roster includes new riders US Pro Criterium Champion Dan Holloway, Mike Friedman, Mike Creed, Jason Donald, Thomas Soladay, Julian Kyer, Colton Barrett and Michael Sherer. Returning riders include Andrew Bajadali, Alex Candelario, Reid Mumford, Jesse Anthony, Marsh Cooper, Dan Bowman and Cheyne Hoag. Riders suit up and depart on their bikes every morning at 9:30 and head toward Malibu and through the mountains.
“The bulk of the riders go for 90 to 100 miles and hit several canyons in the Santa Monica Mountains a day,” Carney said. “I expect the majority of our guys will ride roughly 30 hours in the first seven days of camp. There is some disparity in the fitness levels of the riders at the moment, so some guys are just logging miles, while others are pushing themselves on the climbs.”
It’s not all training at the team camp, however, with the final two days booked for presentations along with sponsor and media visits. On Tuesday, the riders will welcome their sponsors on a morning bike ride followed by a barbeque on the beach.
“It's a great opportunity for the athletes, staff, and sponsors to become more familiar with each other,” Carney said. “But while this camp is more focused on training, photo shoots, meetings with the management and sponsors, our team is almost always having fun. The athletes are living in the house together and constantly interacting.”
Amgen Tour of California positioned as main season focus
Organizers of the Amgen Tour of California announced Kelly Benefit Strategies as one of five US-based Continental outfits invited to participate in the marquee event held from May 15-22.
“We were thrilled to receive an invitation to the Amgen Tour of California,” Carney said. “It is the most important race in the Western Hemisphere and a fantastic chance for us to provide our sponsors with exposure in front of a huge audience.”
Carney will be putting together the strongest team to date that will contest the eight-stage race. The roster will likely include former participants Friedman, Creed and Donald. The team held the King of the Mountain jersey for two stages last year and Carney will be looking for stage podiums and special jerseys once again.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to compete in the Amgen Tour of California and we are going to do everything possible to have an impact on the event,” Carney said. It's important to remember that we will be racing against the world's best on some very difficult courses. We are definitely capable of reaching the podium on some stages. No matter what, we will need to race aggressively, have some luck, and take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself.”
The team will begin its racing season in March at the OCBC Cycle Singapore