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Phil Deignan (UnitedHealthcare) puts pressure on the front group.
Pro Continental team fields well-rounded roster
UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling will field a well-rounded roster at this year's edition of the Amgen Tour of California. According to manager Mike Tamayo, the US-based Pro Continental team is "100 percent focused on stage wins."
Tamayo put together a successful team of sprinters for the flatter stages; stage 3 from Palmdale to Santa Clarita, stage 4 from Santa Clarita to Santa Barbara, stage 5 from Santa Barbara to Avila Beach and the finale stage 8 from San Francisco to Santa Rosa. Those sprinters are Aldo Ino Ilesic, Jake Keough and John Murphy.
He also built a team of proven climbers to showcase during stage 1 over Mt. Palomar, stage 2 at the finish in Palm Springs and stage 7 at the finish on Mt. Diablo. Those riders include Phil Deignan, who recently won the overall title at the Tour of the Gila, Marc de Maar, Lucas Euser and Chris Jones.
The eighth rider is Jeff Louder, a strong time trialist for stage 6 in San Jose, and an opportunist during difficult stages.
"This year's Tour of California has a little for everyone," Tamayo told Cyclingnews. "I felt it was important to have a well-rounded team. We should see sprints, mountaintop finishes and an extremely hard time trial."
Tamayo placed a priority on course recon and drove every stage of this year's parcours in February. "It was important for some of my athlete selections," he said. "Course recon is essential to knowing what's coming next in the race. It gets the rider's mindset right and it helps me visualize what may happen during the stages."
Tamayo pointed to stage wins as his team's number one target during the week-long event. His riders have had an abundance of success during the early season, winning Tour of the Gila, Belmont Criterium, Roswell Criterium, Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium, Delray Beach Twilight Criterium and Cigar City Brewing Criterium, among others.
"We've been on a good streak as of late," Tamayo said. "In general, what we're seeing this year is more overall depth. I had six different riders on the podium last week. How many teams have that success spread amongst its riders?"
UnitedHealthcare could take a new approach to the Tour of California after losing Rory Sutherland, who was a key overall contender for the team during previous editions. Sutherland signed a contract with Saxo-Tinkoff for this season and is currently racing at the Giro d'Italia.
"Rory will always be missed in our program," Tamayo said. "We've had to adjust and spread out some of his responsibilities to other riders. We have a solid and well-rounded team."