UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team capped off a successful week-long training camp by presenting its 17-man roster to a sponsor-filled audience on Saturday night at the Hyatt West Lake Plaza in West Lake Village, California.
The newly upgraded Professional Continental outfit made use of the sunny state’s warm climate to do a little training but the main priority of the camp was to get to know one another, entertain the sponsors and work the camera lens.
Race announcer Dave Towle presented the team one-by-one on stage, highlighting race results and special characteristics for each rider including Rory Sutherland, Karl Menzies, Andrew Pinfold, Brad White, Adrian Hegyvary, Jonny Clarke, Hilton Clarke, Max Jenkins, Jake Keough and Morgan Schmitt and new riders Robert Förster, Christian Meier, Boy van Poppel, Scott Zwizanski, Davide Frattini, Charles Wegelius and Chris Jones.
"We presented the athletes to the world," said Thierry Attias, president of Momentum Sports Group. "We have quite a few new sponsors and some that have been with us since the beginning. The athletes were under the spot light. There was a raised stage, a nice dinner and a chance for our sponsors to meet the riders -- think academy awards."
The team also presented a jersey and a bicycle to an 18th rider, a child from the UnitedHealthcare Children's Foundation who was one of the recipients of the treatment benefits, according to Attias.
Prior to the team presentation, the camp provided an opportunity for sponsors, athletes and management to bond together as a team. Sponsors of the team include UnitedHealthcare, Maxxis, SRAM, Boardman Bikes, ENVE Composites, Ritchey Logic, Voler, Larry H. Miller Dealership, Thule, Westone, Speedplay, Chris King, Bell, Smith Optics, Arundel, Chamois Butt'r, Cat Eye, SpiderTech, 2XU and Marco Pro.
"We had all of our sponsors show up and we hosted a type of sponsor summit during the camp," Attias said. "We brought them together to give them an opportunity to co-market and introduce them to the staff, athletes and the Momentum Sports Group management team."
Attias stresses the importance of the Amgen Tour of California
UnitedHealthcare positioned its early season training camp on the outskirts of Thousand Oaks, the location of the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California. The team was listed as one of the 18 teams invited to this year's marquee event and is investing a great deal in preparing its riders for strong performances.
Attias noted the importance of visiting key sections of the stage race during the four months leading up to the stage race. Despite holding the team camp in a prime location, the team did not have an opportunity to recon nearby stages six, seven or eight.
"It is one of our primary goals this season to have a successful Tour of California," Attias said. "We aspire to do very well and we are going to be bleeding from the eyeballs if we are not at the front of the race. It is important to UnitedHealthcare and to our new sponsors and so it is pretty darn important to be properly prepared. We will invest a lot of time and energy into preparing for the race."
"We will be pre-riding the courses and the spots where we feel will be decisive and key strategy," he added. "This race is critical and that is why we are preparing for it four months in advance."
It is no secret that the UnitedHealthcare team will work for its overall contender Rory Sutherland at the Amgen Tour of California. The remaining roster has not been selected yet but Germany's Robert Förster is confident that his winning sprint and high-caliber race experience are what it takes to make the final cut.
"We are an American team that has its title sponsor and its management group based here in California," Förster said. "I think this event is the very important race for us this year. I hope that we can win a minimum of one stage. It doesn't matter if it is a sprinter stage or a mountain stage, the important thing is that we win a stage. I don't know the team yet but important thing is that the team will work together. The important thing for me is that I have good preparation going into that race."
The team secured early season podium successes at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina and Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia, where Förster brought the team its first season victory in stage 8. The fast man joined the squad having previously competed for teams Milram, Gerolsteiner and Nürnberger. He was pleasantly surprised with the family-like atmosphere of UnitedHealthcare after spending time with his new teammates at the training camp.
"The guys are a little bit tired from travelling to camp from those races but it's OK because the sun is shining in California with 20 degrees Celsius," Förster said. "Going to the first race of the year can be difficult when you only know three or four riders, but coming to the camp and getting to know everyone, it felt like a family."
"We understand each other and it's more like a family here than on a European team," he added. "On a European team you have more business, the big riders and more separated groups. Here, we have had a lot of fun and it is only one big group, like a family. I think that will make it more easy to ride together."
UnitedHealthcare will head overseas to compete in the Volta ao Algarve, Clasica de Almeria, Vuelta Ciclista a la Region de Murcia and Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali.