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Ben King returns to his roots with Rally Cycling in 2021

Ben King at the 2018 Vuelta a España
Ben King takes his second stage win of the 2018 Vuelta a España on stage 9 at La Covatilla (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Ben King is the latest rider to depart Doug Ryder's NTT Pro Cycling outfit with Rally Cycling announcing his arrival at the UCI ProTeam squad for 2021.

King joins Joey Rosskopf in heading to the US team from the WorldTour, with climber Keegan Swirbul, Dutchman Arvid de Kleijn and 2019 junior World Championship bronze medallist Magnus Sheffield as other new additions.

King's arrival completes the 17-rider roster for 2021, with 12 riders renewing: Stephen Bassett, Rob Britton, Nate Brown, Robin Carpenter, Pier-André Coté, Matteo Dal-Cin, Adam de Vos, Colin Joyce, Gavin Mannion, Kyle Murphy, Emerson Oronte, and Nickolas Zukowsky.

The NTT team's future has yet to be confirmed, despite sources hinting that Ryder had found a replacement title sponsor. The uncertainty of the team's future weighed on King, who returned to the US from the shortened European season for the birth of his first child in October.

"It was such a tough year with all the lockdowns and being away from my wife. What with the baby coming, I was under an enormous amount of stress," King said in a press release. "When racing resumed, there were so many unknowns up in the air, not knowing if I'd be able to get back to the US for the birth. And also with NTT Pro Cycling searching for a title sponsor, not knowing what I'd do for work.

"That all took a toll on my ability to focus and enjoy the process of training and racing, and that extra stress just made me so tired and run down, and ready for an off-season, even though we didn't do a long stretch of racing."

Rally Cycling performance director Jonas Carney surprised King with an offer while he was still at the hospital with his wife and their newly born son.

"Jonas actually called me in the hospital a couple of hours after my son was born to offer me the spot on the team – that made for quite a crazy weekend.

"I'm so excited to be coming back. I've kept in touch with Jonas pretty much every year over the last decade. He and Charles Aaron have always been people I respect and enjoy catching up with."

For King, heading to Rally Cycling is a homecoming to the same outfit he first signed with as a freshman at university at Virginia Tech when it was called Kelly Benefit Strategies-Medifast.

King raced with the team for one season before moving across to Trek-Livestrong to race under Axel Merckx for two years before making his WorldTour debut with RadioShack in 2011 after winning the under-23 and elite US road race titles in the same year – both with long solo attacks.

"I still remember winning junior Nationals in 2007 and then getting the phone call from Jonas Carney in my dorm room at college," King said in a team press release. "I had to decide if bike riding was the direction I wanted to take my life in. It really did change my path, that opportunity from Jonas."

Over his 10 seasons in the WorldTour, with three years with Radioshack, three at Slipstream and four with his current organisation, King raced eight Grand Tours – five Vueltas a España, two Tours de France and one Giro d’Italia – earning a reputation as a loyal domestique. He claimed the best-young-rider prize at the Tour of Beijing in 2011, a stage victory at the Criterium International in 2015, and, in his most successful year – 2018 – the mountains jersey at the Volta ao Algarve and two stage victories at the Vuelta a España.

"Obviously, the Vuelta is special to me, and on paper those are my best results. But I'd really like to return to the Giro. I've lived in Italy for the last 11 years, but only raced it once. And then, of course, there's the Tour, which is just on a whole other level in terms of everything surrounding the race. I hope I can help the team get there."

As King's career progressed, so did Carney's team. What started as a scrappy Continental squad targeting the national road-calendar criteriums expanded with Optum as a sponsor in 2011 and, after Rally became title sponsor in 2017, the team climbed into the Pro Continental ranks in 2018 and started doing more races in Europe in addition to a North American calendar.

The change has given King new motivation to train, and he's looking forward to more opportunities and increased responsibility for sharing his experience with his new teammates.

"I kind of surprised myself with how motivated I am. I've been cranking back up the training. We're working on ways to get some sleep around the newborn's schedule, but I'm excited about team camp coming up and the races to follow," he said.

"I love the vision of the team, and the direction it has been headed for the decade I've been away. It's exciting to be a part of that, and hopefully to be an influence on the further growth of the team. With Joey Rosskopf also coming, and the results the team achieved with Gavin Mannion and Keegan Swirbul at the end of the season, I'm excited to be going into that environment."

Leaving the team are Ryan Anderson (retires), John Murphy, Ty Magner and Nigel Ellsay.

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