Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth's Alex Candelario is looking to improve on last year's second place performance and win the stars-and-stripes jersey at the USA Pro Cycling Championships p/b TD Bank on Memorial Day Monday.
The renowned domestic sprinter arrives in Greenville, South Carolina in top form having put forth a strong performance at the recently concluded Amgen Tour of California.
"I tell the guys that, as the sprinter, I am the last resort and for them to go out and race hard and if the move is going to stick, great, but if not, I'll go for it," Candelario told Cyclingnews.
Some 100 professional racers are registered to compete in the championships event. The field will include domestic Continental and Professional Continental riders along with riders from ProTour squads Garmin-Cervelo, RadioShack, BMC Racing and Liquigas-Cannondale.
"US Pro is always a little hard when you add in the bigger teams and the tactics change a bit because it's not what we usually deal with," Candelario said. "I'm confident in our team's ability that we will be able to chase what we need to bring back."
Last year, Ben King was involved in a nearly all day breakaway. Candelario made it over the final climb up Paris Mountain within several seconds of the peloton and was able to work his way back into contention for a podium place. He ultimately won the bunch sprint for second place.
"If there is a split with a few of our guys then we are confident in that," Candelario said. "We will have a few cards to play. It won't just be about me, Andrew Bajadali is coming back on form so is Michael Creed and Jason Donald, so a move up the road is a good situation for us.
"Last year, the last time going up [Paris Mountain] I was a good 20 seconds off the leaders but the descent was just enough that you can get back on," he added. "If guys don't race on the other side then more groups start getting back on. The strong climbers will go over the top and drop guys like me but I have the power to regroup and get back in after the climb."
Candelario recently participated in the Amgen Tour of California where he placed fifth in a bunch sprint on stage five into Paso Robles, behind winner Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), Leigh Howard (HTC-Highroad), Ben Swift (Sky) and Paul Martens (Rabobank). He will be focused on the USA Pro Cycling Championships and the TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championships held the following weekend.
"I think that when [team director] Jonas [Carney] was looking at the schedule, the build-up was for the US Pro road race," Candelario said. "We came to the Tour of California being realistic about what we could and could not do, it was more of a step toward US Pro and Philly. I wanted to try and get a podium [finish] but everything was really going toward US Pro."