After three seasons with the Canadian based SpiderTech squad Lucas Euser is joining the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team for 2013. He signed a one-year contract which he says he’s comfortable with, feeling that his results will merit an extension into the following years.
The SpiderTech team in October announced they were “postponing” racing in 2013 so they could focus on returning to a WorldTour status in 2014. This suspension by the team has sent riders, as well as Spidertech management, looking for contracts. However, this wasn’t a factor as Euser had been contacted by the UnitedHealthcare team earlier in the season.
“UnitedHealthcare approached me,” Euser told Cyclingnews. “They saw my performances and Mike Tamayo (general manager/director sportif of UnitedHealthcare) reached out to me because he saw over the past three years of my comeback I’ve had consistent results.
“He sees that trend of an upward trajectory and UnitedHealthcare can bring in their resources and knowledge to turn those consistent results into podium finishes. I’m here to win bike races.
“UnitedHealthcare’s devotion to cycling is very special. It is a health care company and they care about their brand, customers and riders on the team. There’s a lot of mutual respect from the team to the sponsor. For me it is a great team to integrate into because they are using us as role models to live healthy lifestyles. That’s what I’m all about.”
While he is leaving the SpiderTech team he is thankful for the time spent there.
"They gave me a chance to get back into the peloton and now I'm at a crux in my career. I'm taking the right steps in my career to make sure I'm on the right team that helps me win bike races. When Tamayo and UnitedHealthcare came to me and said this is what they can do I said let's do this – I'm on board."
The Canadian Pro Continental team had provided Euser an opportunity to return to racing following a knee injury that occurred when he was struck by a car while training in May of 2009.
"My kneecap doesn't track the same way it use to. It involves constant therapy and I have to stay on top of the scar tissue and inflammation that is permanent underneath the kneecap," said Euser.
He is philosophical about the injury. "I've learned so much about my body, so much about myself as a human being, how I react to roadblocks and how I can overcome those. I gained a whole new perspective from that accident."
"Now it's gone beyond just a knee injury. It is now making me a better cyclist and better person in general."
This return to racing has given him some perspective on his cycling career.
"I've reinvented myself and come back with the rare experience of knowing what I learned the first part of my career and applying it to this second chance."
When he had made the decision to transfer to UnitedHealthcare he wasn’t aware that his current team was going to fold in a few months. So why make the move to the American based team when he thought SpiderTech would still be a squad in 2013?
“It’s great to say you’re on a WorldTour team, but unless you’re 100 percent ready it doesn’t make any sense going there. I want to win bike races before I get to the WorldTour. I want to show myself as a leader, as a strong climber, as someone a team could have confidence in,” said the 28 year-old American. “If you go too early (to a WorldTour team) you get caught behind the learning curve and wait too long catching up – I don’t have that time on my side anymore.”
“This is my time to shine and I need to be on a team that is willing to nurture and support that and reach the goals I ultimately have.”
Rory Sutherland had been the team’s captain and general classification rider for six seasons on UnitedHealthcare. His biggest win of his career was this year’s stage 6 in Boulder and finishing tenth overall on GC at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. The Australian climber is now taking his talents to Saxo Bank-Tinkoff leaving a void on the team. Does Euser think he can fill the spot left by Sutherland?
“No. Rory is a close friend of mine and we have spent a lot of time with each other in Boulder. By no means do I feel that I’m replacing him,” says Euser. “I ride much better in a dynamic environment where there are multiple cards to play. I’m going into the season with a multiple rider approach to the GC with Marc de Maar and Philip Deignan. When those guys are on they are great assets to the GC.”
Irishman Deignan is a Giro d’Italia finisher as well as finishing in ninth place in the 2009 Vuelta a España and winning a stage. De Maar is a multiple time trial and road race champion of Curçao as well as a Grand Tour rider, finishing the Vuelta a España and the Giro d’Italia.
“I’m very consistent and one of the better climbers, but by no means does that directly translate to being the one-man GC show.”
The Boulder based rider feels he has a lot to offer UnitedHealthcare.
“I’m a dynamic rider and like to be aggressive and do things out of the norm. We saw that at the Tour of Utah and at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. I wasn’t afraid to stick my neck out there and a lot more teams are going to notice that next year.”
“I bring a lot of depth and a sense of calm when racing in stressful situation – I can handle a lot. In that situation my leadership qualities will shine. I don’t mean my leadership qualities will shine in the sense like, ‘Drop me off at the bottom of the climb and I’ll win.’ Leadership roles means on and off the bike. You need to know how to work with 21 other guys and make sure everyone sticks together. Everyone has a different role and I could be the guy that connects and brings the team together.”
While the UnitedHealthcare team has a strong racing presence in the United States, participating in America’s biggest stage races, the squad also had a selective European campaign. Racing in Europe is still important to Euser.
“I love racing in Europe and long races. I made the world championship team and was training 250 kilometers a day behind a scooter around Boulder. For someone who is a climber that (Europe) is the place to shine.”
“We will have a European campaign with a focus on northern Europe for the sprint team, but there will be some good races mixed in for our GC guys who will be getting ready for California, Utah and Colorado. Those American races are a top priority on our calendar.”
With years of experience racing in Europe, which has included participating in the Tour de Suisse, Tour de Luxembourg and Tour de Romandie, as well as all the major events here in the States, Euser knows he will have his chances.
“I want to be an amazing climber. I have the physique and the capabilities to do it so why not take advantage of that when it presents itself? Typically you do get an opportunity to ride for GC but my focus will be mainly the big mountain top finishes and a lot of races will be including that.”
With a new team Euser has changed his training program. He’s integrated himself into the Boulder scene and taking advantage of the support system that the town offers. Part of that support system is health care and having the right people around him to create a positive environment.
Another part is training with the many pros that live in the area. Prior to the 2012 road world championships Euser participated in a three-week training camp organized by Dr. Allen Lim.
“That was an incredible experience and was the most work I’ve ever done on a bike,” said Euser. “By far one of the most inspiring three weeks I’ve had on a bike.”
That camp was a who’s who of American racers as Taylor Phinney, Tejay van Garderen, Alex Howes, Tim Johnson, and Craig Lewis were participants.
“It set me on a new path and a new course to testing my limits. I pushed myself further than I ever had before and in a controlled environment.”
Euser is taking a different approach to his training next year.
“It is going to be camp-based and by that I mean I’m building a support team for me as well as integrating that into UnitedHealthcare,” explains Euser. “I’ll make sure I have the right support crew, friends and environment.”
“It will be more structured. I work better when I am held accountable for my work I’m doing and it will be done in a very positive environment with good people.”
One of those people Euser will work with is Dr. Allen Lim.
Was there any concern training with Lim considering the doctor has been accused by Floyd Landis as someone who assisted him in his doping program for the 2006 Tour de France?
“No. Allen and I met in 2006 when I first turned pro. He has continually been able to provide me with great insight. His knowledge of exercise physiology and human performance is unlike anyone I know. I respect the hard work he has put into his career and I’m excited to have him as part of my support network.”
With a new team for 2013 Euser also has new training goals.
“Train harder, eat better and sleep more.”