The United Healthcare presented by Maxxis team is confident it will receive an invitation to the most prestigious stage race in the United States of America. The fifth annual Tour of California is set to take begin on May 16 in Nevada City and conclude on May 23 in Agoura Hills just outside of Los Angeles.
"We have a solid roster and it's one of the top domestic teams in the country," said General Manager Mike Tamayo. "We have always done our best at all the events in California, Georgia or Missouri. We usually have guys on the podium for stage results and going for a jersey. We are a team that races our bikes wholeheartedly and with a lot of intensity. I think that in itself will carry us to the Tour of California."
The team is owned an operated by Momentum Sports Group (MSG) and is an incarnation of the former HealthNet presented by Maxxis in 2005-2008 that changed its title sponsor to OUCH in 2009.
The team's best results through the history of the Tour of California come from Australian all-rounder Rory Sutherland who placed 4th in stage 8 in 2009, 2nd in stage 7 in 2008 and 4th in the opening prologue in 2007.
"We haven't had the big win at the Tour of California yet and it's been several years since we've had a result there," Tamayo said. "We definitely have that hunger. We want to get that stage win and we want to have a good ride there this year. We will be spending some time doing some course reviews for the riders and familiarize ourselves with what's coming our way so that we can have everything ready to be executed for us to win a stage."
The Tour of California organization released the details of the upcoming race, which includes more climbing than any previous edition, but despite a finish at Big Bear lake, it lacks a decisive mountain finish. Yet Tamayo thinks the race will come down to more than just the time trial as it has in the past.
"I've kept up with a little bit of the stage announcements and we knew some of the stuff that was coming up," Tamayo said. "I think it's great, obviously with the move into May we can use some of the high mountains that we couldn't use before. We are looking forward to it and it's going to be a completely different bike race than we have seen in the past several years, it's not just going to be about the time trial. I think second part is going to be the hardest because as the week gets going it's going to all about the GC."
AEG Sports, the organizers of the Tour of California, moved the race from its traditional February slot on the International Cycling Union (UCI) calendar to its new position in May this year. The nearly four-month delay drastically changes the US domestic team preparations, according to Tamayo.
"Its huge, big difference," he said. "The Tour of California is the biggest bike race for us in the US and for a domestic team it is the number one race. Imagine you had to tell all the European teams that the Tour de France is in February and they have to get ready for it. It's so hard to get equipment and staff ready along with the riders fitness and training. It's a lot more relaxed now and we can train more specifically and use some races to get ready for the Tour of California."
United Healthcare presented by Maxxis will begin racing at the Merco Credit Union Cycling Classic, San Dimas Stage Race and the Redlands Bicycle Classic in March. The team will also target Tour of Bisbee, Tour of the Gila, Southeast Crits and Joe Martin before the Tour of California.