Britton, 31, finished third overall at the USA Pro Challenge in August on the strength of his climbing and time trialling abilities, skills that team performance director Jonas Carney said will help boost Optum's efforts in the big North American UCI races next year.
"One of our weaknesses over the last couple of years has been depth at big races like the Tour of California, USA Pro Challenge and Tour of Utah," Carney said.
"We have riders who are very capable of getting results at those events, but they have not always had the help they need when going up against the biggest teams in the world. We know [recent signing from Team Sky Danny Pate] and Rob can get results at events of that caliber, but they are also great teammates and tacticians. More importantly, they are two of the friendliest, hardest working guys I know and will add to the culture of our team tremendously."
Britton had his best season to date in 2015 with Team SmartStop, which folded following the Tour of Alberta. After his Gila win, Britton climbed onto the podium at the USA Pro Challenge with a second-place finish during the time trial in Breckenridge.
"[The 2015 season] was an incredible year, and I'm honestly still processing what was accomplished," Britton said. "That being said, the baseline has changed now. Colorado changed everything, as it showed me I can compete against some of the best time trialists around. I honestly haven't sat down and penned out goals for '16, but I promise it will be big. There’s a bike race in Rio that I'd like to attend."
Carney praised Britton as a "well-rounded" rider and said he is looking forward to seeing what the Canadian can do with Optum next year.
"He climbs really well, and his time trial has improved tremendously over the last two years," Carney said. "Being able to out-time trial almost all of the other climbers he raced against this year netted him some big results."
Britton said he is excited to race with the other Canadians on the Optum roster. In 2015, the US-registered Continental team had five Canadians, including Guillaume Boivin, Ryan Anderson, Pierick Naud, Will Routley and Michael Woods, who briefly led the Tour of Utah and signed with Cannondale-Garmin for next season.
"When I look at the roster for next year and the Canadians we have, I couldn't be happier," Britton said. "While I've been racing against these guys for almost a decade now, I've never actually had the chance to race with them outside of a national team setting. We're all friends and have often talked about how great it would be if we were on the same side. I guess now we'll find out – and so will everyone else."
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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.
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