Ryan Anderson (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) nearly pulled off the upset stage win of the 2013 USA Pro Challenge on the final day in Denver. The 26-year-old Canadian had gotten the jump on Peter Sagan (Cannondale) out of the last turn, and faced 250 meters of road between himself and the biggest win of his life. Sagan, however, already a three-time stage winner in his first Colorado appearance, clawed his way back to Anderson and passed him in the closing meters for his fourth stage win of the USA Pro Challenge.
2012 came to a close in tumultuous fashion for Anderson, who found himself scrambling for a team after his two-year stint with Spidertech came to an abrupt conclusion last fall when the Pro Continental squad folded. Anderson, a member of US-based Continental squad Kelly Benefit Strategies in 2010-2011, received a lifeline in June from the team in its 2013 iteration, Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies, and set out to salvaging his season in dramatic fashion.
"When Spidertech folded we tried to recruit Ryan back, he went somewhere else, and that didn't work out for him," Optum performance director Jonas Carney told Cyclingnews. "He called me this spring and was wondering if we had a spot for him and we did. He was a member of our team for a couple of years and he's part of our family. We always wanted him to come back."
Anderson earned the silver medal in Canada's road championships in late June, followed that with third place in the Tour de Delta, then found himself going toe-to-toe with WorldTour fast man Elia Viviani (Cannondale) in early August at the Tour of Elk Grove. Anderson finished runner-up to the Italian sprinter on stages 1 and 2 and stood on the final GC podium in second place, behind Viviani, for his efforts.
Anderson arrived at the USA Pro Challenge as part of a sprinter-heavy Team Optum roster and went head-to-head in the race's two true field sprint finales - stage 3 into Steamboat Springs and stage 7 in Denver - with Viviani's teammate Peter Sagan, arguably the hottest property in cycling these days. In Steamboat Springs Anderson placed third behind WorldTour sprinters Sagan and Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano), on the final stage in Denver the Canadian finished an agonisingly close second to the Slovakian champion.
"Today I decided that I wanted to go before Sagan and try to hold him off," said Anderson, "I executed that plan, and it didn't quite work, but it was pretty close so I'm happy with the day. Our team has been through a lot this week with the crashes and injuries, so everyone left in the race was extremely motivated for a result today. Everyone worked so hard today to keep me safe and in good position, and all that worked paid off."
Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies started the race in Colorado with a squad chock full of fast finishers in Ken Hanson, Alex Candelario, Mike Friedman plus Anderson. The team's stage win ambitions were tempered first by the loss of Hanson due to a crash on stage 2, while the squad's lead-out train took a heavy hit in the finale of stage 3 into Steamboat Springs with Candelario, Friedman, and Jesse Anthony all hitting the deck in a crash caused by a rider colliding with a spectator. Anderson, nevertheless, placed third but Candelario and Friedman would withdraw from the race.
Despite missing some crucial manpower, Anderson proved his mettle on the final stage in Denver.
"I would have liked to see Hanson, Candelario and Friedman doing the lead-out today (Sunday - ed,) but instead Ryan just kind of had to do his own thing. I was blown away that he could do that," said Carney.
"I'm sure he's super-disappointed because he had that win. He made the perfect move and he almost had it, but he's sprinting against one of the fastest sprinters in the world so second place is a pretty amazing finish."
Carney spoke of Anderson's strengths as a rider.
"He's kind of an all arounder who has a very good sprint. He time trials well, he climbs well - maybe not up at 9,000 ft. - and he's got a good finish on him. He doesn't think of himself as a sprinter but when he wants to he can really scrap up there - he's a pretty cagey guy."
Next up for Anderson is a block of racing in his home country. He'll line up with Team Optum at the inaugural Tour of Alberta and then will contest the pair of one-day WorldTour races in Quebec and Montreal as part of the Canadian National Team.