Every cycling team has a season-defining race, an event that it builds up to, that enables it to achieve its goals, to make its mark on the sport. For the big-budget teams of the international peloton, these races are the Tour de France and the Classics.
For the North American teams on the domestic circuit that race is the Tour of Utah, a week-long event that’s the toughest on the calendar, where they are not only in competition with leading WorldTour squads but also dealing with the effects of racing at high altitude.
"The race is almost too hard, every stage is brutal, they're just climbing and climbing and climbing," says Elevate KHS general manager Paul Abrahams, whose planning for the Tour of Utah begins six weeks before the race gets underway. Televised nationally, it's the best chance for Elevate KHS to showcase the work that all of the team's staff have put in throughout the season, to show that their riders can compete against some of the best in the world.
They went into it with their sights set high, targeting a podium finish for their leader James Piccoli. "Behind me there are 100 people. That's one of the things that really motivates me," says Piccoli. "The goal is to have a career-defining moment."
Set up nine years ago, Elevate KHS have steadily risen through the ranks. "This year we have the riders that we want, the staff that we want, and the partners," says Abrahams, including Monster Energy.
Full of confidence, committed to their plan, Elevate KHS achieved their goal as Piccoli finished second on GC and they claimed the most aggressive jersey, a fitting reward for these hugely motivated underdogs and the perfect note on which to end the season.
"We're all fighters at Elevate KHS," says Piccoli. "I don't have many skills in cycling, but one of them is that I never give up."