UnitedHealthcare manager Mike Tamayo gave his women's team an A when grading their overall success during the 2014 season, a great mark considering it was the team's first year on the professional women’s circuit. Tamayo believes there is still room for improvement, however, and he is confident that the team will rise up to his A+ standards during their second season in 2015.
"They definitely get an A in my book," Tamayo said. "We’ll shoot for that A+ next year."
The team's leader, Alison Powers, made history as the first woman to hold three US titles in the criterium, time trial and road race at the same time. She won the criterium last summer, and the time trial and road race in May. Her teammate Coryn Rivera went on to win the criterium title in September.
The team's long list of victories come from the Boston Mayor's Cup, Gateway Cup, Tour of Utah's Women’s Edition, Cedar City Grand Prix, Nevada City Classic, North Star Grand Prix, Tulsa Tough, Tour of California women's time trial, The Women's Tour in Britain, Tour of the Gila, Belmont Women's Criterium, Sunny King Women's Criterium, Redlands Bicycle Classic, Vuelta El Salvador, GP de Orient and the Tour de San Luis.
"The goal was to win every race that we went to," Tamayo said. "We had a winning strategy. We may not have won every race but we had a pretty damn good season. We won every national title available to us in the US on the women's side."
Two of the team's most successful riders, Powers and Mara Abbott, who is a two-time winner of the Giro Rosa, have left the program. Powers decided to retire, leaving the peloton without US national champion jerseys in the time trial and road races next year, while Abbott has decided to move to the Wiggle-Honda squad.
"Mara has European goals that she wants to pursue and we wish her the best of luck," Tamayo said. "When we were looking to fill that climbing role, we found Abby Mickey [third place at the Tour of the Gila] and we are focussed on developing her.
"Alison will forever be a UnitedHealthcare rider, even though she is retiring, she was such a strong force on our team, so successful and such an instrumental part of all of our success. If there is such thing as one of the founding members, she is one of them."
The team hired Mickey as their primary climber and GC contender for the upcoming season. To fill Powers' void in the time trials, they signed Linda Villumsen, a two-time silver medallist at the time trial World Championships, and Laura Brown, a Worlds silver medallist in the team pursuit.
"We went out of our way to try and hire riders that could do what Abbott and Powers were capable of doing," he said.
The team also includes returning riders Coryn Rivera, who had a lot of success in the sprints this season, along with Rushlee Buchanan, Lauren Tamayo, Hannah Barnes, Alexis Ryan, Katie Hall, Cari Higgins, Scotti Wilborne and Ruth Winder.
The team will focus on events in the US at the Tour of California, Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Challenge, along with many of the other top races offered to the women's peloton on the National Racing Calendar and the National Criterium Calendar. They also plan to return overseas to compete in La Course by Le Tour de France, The Women's Tour in Britain and the new one-day race offered in conjunction with the Vuelta a España.
"We'll be sending teams to all these races next year," Tamayo said.
"We are tipping our hat at organisers that are bringing on the women's races and doing it right. We are prepared to bring a team that is ready to win and do it right, as well."
Many of the team's riders also compete on the track and will be looking down the road to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and UnitedHealthcare is prepared to support them in those endeavours.
"We have a lot of team pursuit riders on our team with Higgins, Winder and Tamayo for the US," he said. "We also have New Zealand riders, Buchanan on the track and Villumsen for the time trial. And Brown from Canada. A lot of our team could be on the track in 2016," Tamayo said.
For now, the focus is on a successful 2015. The UnitedHealthcare's women’s and men's team will be preparing for the new season at a team training camp held from December 6-18 in Asheville, North Carolina.
"The focus is just to get the team together and get them their 2015 product," Tamayo said. "The riders will do quite a bit of training. It's a long enough camp that they will be able to spend quality time together on the bike and off the bike."