The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team wrapped up a week of what director Mike Tamayo called a team bonding camp in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. The purpose was to bring the riders together so they can better know each other and participate in some team strengthening exercises.
"Most of our results come from teamwork rather than individual rides, so we wanted to bring everyone together. We're planning and prepping and before you know it you're bike racing," said Tamayo.
Other than some easy rides to test out the equipment on the roads of Asheville, the team slipped into some protective gear and fought it out with paint guns for four hours. There were no injuries, but Dutch rider Boy Van Poppel took a paint pellet to the head and European Team Director Hendrik Redant was suffering from using muscles usually reserved for running.
"It made the team captains step up and take a role in making a strategy," said Tamayo, justifying the reason for arming his riders with paint guns.
However, before the paintball battle a few riders were sent to the A2 Wind Tunnel in Mooresville, North Carolina for two days of aerodynamic testing. Long time UnitedHealthcare member Rory Sutherland skipped the tunnel session as the boys in blue will once again ride Boardman bikes, so no changes for the Australian. However, new recruits Ben Day, Jeff Louder, Philip Deignan and Marc de Maar all spent time in the tunnel fine tuning their positions on the time trial rigs.
"We saw some big changes with Philip (Deignan) so we're real excited about that."
Naturally, with UnitedHealthcare headquartered in the Golden State, the upcoming Amgen Tour of California is high on their list of goals but so are Tour of Utah and Colorado's Pro Cycling Challenge. The team is also aiming at some European races.
"We have Hendrik (Redant – European Team Director) on board and he has a lot of experience from Belgium and a lot of our team is suited to Belgian style racing because of the flatter roads and faster style of racing," said Tamayo.
While the squad will kick off the 2012 season in the Tour de San Luis in San Luis, Argentina, they'll head to Europe afterward for the Volya a Algarve and the Settimana Internazionale di Coppi e Bartali.
"We're looking forward to these races," said Tamayo. "Previously we were focusing on performing in the U.S. Now we're also looking to perform in Europe rather than just using those races for preparation," revealed Tamayo.