Tamayo to direct last race at Tour of Utah

UnitedHealthcare manager/director moving out of the team car to focus on US Pro Continental team’s growth

UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling’s long-time manager/director, Mike Tamayo, will spend his last race behind the wheel of a team car during Sunday’s final stage at the Tour of Utah.

Tamayo told Cyclingnews on Saturday that he will move into a full-time management role after this week and focus on growing the team, with the eventual goal of achieving WorldTour status.

The 39-year-old from Asheville, North Carolina, joined the Momentum Sports Group, the management company that owns the team, in 2007 and has been guiding the different iterations of the current squad ever since. Now he’ll step away from the day-to-day operations to focus on the big picture of moving UnitedHealthcare to the next level.

“Well it’s a fun and scary promotion at the same time, I guess is one way to look at it,” he said. “I’ve been directing and I’ve been driving a team car now since 1999. So you know it’s quite a few years.

“For the past couple years, I’ve been the general manager as well as sporting director, and it’s just too much to do all at once; you just can’t do it,” Tamayo said. “And so we’re going into the 2017 and the future, actually ’18, ’19 and ‘20 we’ve got a lot going on as far as growth goes.”

Tamayo said he views his new role as the start of a new race.

“My new race is how to take us to that next level,” he said. “We’ve hired some new directors, which we’re really excited about, so they can really focus on the sporting side. And, instead, I can really hunker down and say, ‘OK, I’m going to work with the team owner Thierry Attias and Kristin Harvey, who is in charge of all our sponsorships, and say, ‘how do we take this to the next level? Where are we at?’ For us, we have a 12-month race to try and figure out how to make it to the next level. So that’s my new role.”

Tamayo said the team isn’t yet ready to announce who the new directors are, but he said he’s very excited to have them join current directors Hendrick Redant and Rachel Heal.

“We’re super excited about that,” he said. “Some new blood, some new excitement, some new motivation just keeps things going, and it keeps the riders more motivated and that kind of thing.”

While Tamayo said he will miss directing his team in races from the car and “throwing water bottles at other team cars,” he is excited about the opportunity to help his current directors become better at their jobs and working with new High Performance Director Ben Day to introduce more science and technology into their coaching program.

“We are investing money in growth,” he said. “We are investing money into ‘what does it take to get results?’ And so that was really the big push. I’m an IT guy, that’s actually what I went to university for, so Ben and I were already playing a lot with the different technology we can bring into the team cars, the riders, their training, just things like that. So I’m just going big picture.”

For a second-level cycling team that aspires toward more and constant growth, the next step on the ladder has to be the WorldTour, and Tamayo acknowledged that was his ultimate goal.

“If you ask my PR team I’m not supposed to say that,” he said. “But I’ve got to be honest with you, we’ve got to get there. We’ve got to fight hard, and we’re motivated to make it happen.

“We’ve done everything we can possibly do in North America. We’ve raced Paris-Roubaix, we’ve raced Milan-San Remo, we’ve raced everything. The only thing we haven’t raced is a Grand Tour. And I just want to – I’ve got to – get a team in a Grand Tour. And then we can finally check that one off the list and say, ‘Well, I’ve accomplished everything, now what do I do.’”

For all the excitement about the future possibilities, however, Tamayo admitted to having some mixed emotions about stepping away from the director’s role.

“I mean, this is my last race. It still gives me goosebumps when I say it,” he said. “I’ve been in the team car and we’ve won stages at Utah, Colorado, we’ve held yellow jersey’s everywhere. As a director I’ve won every race in the US at some point or another. Whether it’s Joe Martin or Northstar, Nature Valley, or Redlands, or Cascade.

“I’ve lived vicariously through my athletes. The only race that has eluded me – that we’ve never gotten a stage win at – is California. That’s the only one, and I always kept joking that the day I get my California win is the day I retire. But I didn’t get it, and instead I think it’s time for me to step into that GM role and push the team further forward.”

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