Momentum Sports Group (MSG), owners and operators of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, has added horsepower to its roster by signing ProTeam riders Jason McCartney and Philip Deignan from RadioShack, and Jeff Louder from BMC Racing as well as domestic riders Ben Day from Kenda/5-hour Energy and Jay Thomson from Bissell. The second year UCI Professional Continental outfit will put a greater emphasis on international racing while maintaining its focus on performing well at the Tour of California, Tour of Utah and USA Pro Cycling Challenge in 2012.
“These kinds of riders have won races, and having them step up, we are looking forward to having new cards to play,” said UnitedHealthcare manager Mike Tamayo. “We welcome having more cards to play and several riders who could potentially be general classification leaders. It is my job to keep them focused and riding well together.”
McCartney returns to MSG having competed under its previous team HealthNet in 2003 and 2004, when he qualified for the Olympic Games after winning the pre-event trials in the road race. He went on to ride for Discovery Channel from 2005-07, Team CSC in 2008 and 2009 and most recently RadioShack for 2010 and 2011.
“We’ve kept in touch with Jason over the years and we have always been interested in him, knowing that at one point he could bring his leadership and experience to a team like ours,” Tamayo said. “Instead of being one of many guys on a team like RadioShack, he can focus on helping to develop a newer team and program.”
“We consider our team to be one of the top teams in the country and for so many years we ran a Continental team bringing up new guys and new talent such as Tyler Farrar, Ryder Hesjedal and Greg Henderson,” he said. “Back then we didn’t have the ProTour events and ambitions that those riders had so they came up with us to a certain level, they won races domestically for us, and then moved on to bigger teams. Now we are at the point where some of the guys can come back and continue to do the races they love in Europe and enjoy being apart of our team again.”
Deignan also joins the team from RadioShack and previously competed for Cervélo TestTeam and Ag2r Prevoyance. The Irishman competed in the 2008 Olympic Games and is best known for winning a stage in Avila at the 2009 Vuelta a España where he placed ninth overall.
“We spoke with Philip last year and he seemed like a very good fit to our team but at the last minute he got an offer from RadioShack and he was very respectful about telling us,” Tamayo said. “We kept in touch and had our eyes set on hiring him all year. He was top ten at a grand tour and because our team is continuing to grow we need riders like him that are young and have talent. He is the perfect rider for us to win races, we think he can take a leadership role on this team and we are looking forward to putting him in that position.”
Day and Louder sign up
Day’s domestic palmares is strong having won Redlands Bicycle Classic, San Dimas Stage Race and the Tour de Beauce. He is also a former Australian time trial national champion in 2003 and stage winner at the Tour Down Under. He intended to upgrade from his former Continental Fly V Australia team in 2010 to the proposed Pegasus Sports for 2011. However, the UCI refused to issue the team a ProTeam, Professional Continental or the Continental license it requested due to a lack of funding after the outfit failed to secure a main financial backer.
“Ben is a talented time triallist and a strong rider,” Tamayo said. “He can be competitive at stage races and he can ride at the front of a bike race all day, we have seen him do both. He is a versatile rider and we like that dynamic. I think he will be hungry next year because he was riding well with Fly V, went through the Pegasus debacle, and floundered this year. My conversation with him was very direct and I want him at his best. He is hungry and motivate.”
Tamayo also announced the signing of Louder, who will provide the team with an additional card to play in the overall classification. The Utah native also raced under HealthNet in 2006 and 2007 before joining BMC Racing in 2008. He is best known for winning the Tour of Utah and his resume also includes victories at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, Cascade Cycling Classic, and he won the mountain classification at the Tour of Missouri.
“We give our riders a chance to train properly, race properly and spend some time with their wives and kids,” Tamayo said. “Some of these guys were looking forward to that. It allows them to mentally prepare and focus. They were the twentieth rider on a team of thirty, but here they can be rider number three, four or five and will have a clear idea of what their schedules will look like.”
Tamayo also confirmed the signing of Thomson and Marc de Maar along with returning riders Rory Sutherland, Robert Forster, Boy van Poppel, Jake Keough, Karl Menzies, Chris Jones, Adrian Hegyvary, Davide Frattini, Jonny and Hilton Clarke and Brad White.
“Jay is the South African version of Brad White, when you tell him to get in the breakaway, he will get in the breakaway in one way shape or form,” Tamayo said. “He has a lot of horsepower and we also see him fitting in really well into our blue train for Robert Forster.”
UnitedHealthcare competed in a handful of top-level events overseas during its first season as a Professional Continental outfit including Tour de Langkawi, Volta a Algarve, Clasica de Almeria, Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia, Settimana Internazionale di Coppi Bartali, Driesdaagse de Panne, Ronde van Drenthe, Giro del Trentino and Vuelta a Asturias.
According to Tamayo, the team’s goal is to continue to improve in overseas events while maintaining a strong focus on the Tour of California, Tour of Utah and USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
“UnitedHealthcare will always have a strong presence in the US and we will always focus on our best performances at California, Utah and Colorado,” Tamayo said. “That will mean building our schedules in order to have our guys at their best in those events.”
“We liked a lot of the races that we did this year and we are looking forward to a lot of the races again next year,” he said. “We will have a stronger and deeper team and the organization will be better able to handle the curve balls that come at us at a European level. We are looking forward to season number two over in Europe.”