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Gallery: Optum team trains in California

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The team crests a climb near Lake Piru.

The team crests a climb near Lake Piru. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Phil Gaimon motorpaces back to the group after a mechanical.

Phil Gaimon motorpaces back to the group after a mechanical. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Directors Jonas Carney and Eric Wohlberg chat before the team ride.

Directors Jonas Carney and Eric Wohlberg chat before the team ride. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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The sun shined everyday of camp for Optum.

The sun shined everyday of camp for Optum. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Owner Charles Aaron talks with Brad Huff before a ride.

Owner Charles Aaron talks with Brad Huff before a ride. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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The team rides through a tunnel near Thousand Oaks.

The team rides through a tunnel near Thousand Oaks. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Mike Dimkich, who played guitar with The Cult for 20 years and now plays with Bad Religion, joned the team ride on the final day.

Mike Dimkich, who played guitar with The Cult for 20 years and now plays with Bad Religion, joned the team ride on the final day. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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The team trains in the Malibu hills.

The team trains in the Malibu hills. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Guillaume Boivin comes to the team from two years at Cannondale.

Guillaume Boivin comes to the team from two years at Cannondale. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Bjorn Selander and Eric Young.

Bjorn Selander and Eric Young. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Optum trains in the Malibu hills.

Optum trains in the Malibu hills. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Newcomer Peirrick Naud comes to the team from Garneau Quebecor.

Newcomer Peirrick Naud comes to the team from Garneau Quebecor. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Will Routley (Optum Pro Cycling).

Will Routley (Optum Pro Cycling). (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Jesse Anthony finishes the team "race" on the final day of camp.

Jesse Anthony finishes the team "race" on the final day of camp. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Director Jonas Carney congratulates Bjorn Selander for his performance on the final day of camp.

Director Jonas Carney congratulates Bjorn Selander for his performance on the final day of camp. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Newcomer Michael Woods is looking for a breakout season this year.

Newcomer Michael Woods is looking for a breakout season this year. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Tom Zirbel (Optum Pro Cycling).

Tom Zirbel (Optum Pro Cycling). (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Scott Zwizanski and Pierrick Naud during the final day of training camp.

Scott Zwizanski and Pierrick Naud during the final day of training camp. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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canadians Pierrick Naud, Guillaume Boivin and Michael Woods wait for the ride to start.

canadians Pierrick Naud, Guillaume Boivin and Michael Woods wait for the ride to start. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Mechanics assemble the team's time trial machines.

Mechanics assemble the team's time trial machines. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Canadian Ryan Anderson is back for another year with Optum.

Canadian Ryan Anderson is back for another year with Optum. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Scott Zwizanski and Jesse Anthony lead the pack up Balcom Canyon.

Scott Zwizanski and Jesse Anthony lead the pack up Balcom Canyon. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Tom Zirbel and Bjorn Selander.

Tom Zirbel and Bjorn Selander. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Will Routley (Optum Pro Cycling)

Will Routley (Optum Pro Cycling) (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Pierrick Naud and Scott Zwizanski look back at Balcom Canyon, which the team had just climbed.

Pierrick Naud and Scott Zwizanski look back at Balcom Canyon, which the team had just climbed. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Riders rest at the top of Balcom Canyon, a climb that will be featured in this year's Tour of California.

Riders rest at the top of Balcom Canyon, a climb that will be featured in this year's Tour of California. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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The team's rides took them through many agricultural operations.

The team's rides took them through many agricultural operations. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Optum trains just north of Los Angeles.

Optum trains just north of Los Angeles. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Riders rail a descent.

Riders rail a descent. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Mechanic Erik Maresjo hands Brad Huff some water.

Mechanic Erik Maresjo hands Brad Huff some water. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Riders refuel during a break in the action.

Riders refuel during a break in the action. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Phil Gaimon (right) and Brad Huff show off their "clean" tattoos while Scott Zwizanski clowns in the background.

Phil Gaimon (right) and Brad Huff show off their "clean" tattoos while Scott Zwizanski clowns in the background. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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The 2015 Optum men's road team.

The 2015 Optum men's road team. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Plenty of food and water are necessities for a good training ride.

Plenty of food and water are necessities for a good training ride. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Tom Soladay and Eric Young.

Tom Soladay and Eric Young. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Will Routley and Michael Woods.

Will Routley and Michael Woods. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Th e team trains outside Oxnard.

Th e team trains outside Oxnard. (Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Optum Pro Cycling team owner Charles Aaron congratulates "camp champ" Ryan Anderson.

Optum Pro Cycling team owner Charles Aaron congratulates "camp champ" Ryan Anderson. (Image credit: Pat Malach)

After a week and a half of training in Southern California, Optum Pro Cycling director Jonas Carney said he is happy with the team he assembled for the 2015 season and thinks this may be one of the most well-balanced rosters he's put together.

“I've been super impressed with the guys,” Carney told Cyclingnews as he followed a team ride in the Malibu hills of California. “They showed up well prepared to camp, all of them. And I'm very happy with the new additions and how they're fitting in with the group. I'm pretty excited about the well-balanced team that we have. We have a lot of depth, and we're pretty well covered in all areas, climbing, sprinting and time trialing.”

The team lost general classification rider Carter Jones to Giant-Alpecin in the off season, but Carney added former Garmin-Sharp rider Phil Gaimon and Canadian climber Michael Woods to help fill that gap.

“Maybe we have a little bit more depth on the climbing side with those two guys,” Carney said. “Losing Chad [Haga after the 2013 season] and Carter, we needed someone like Phil to bring over to the team.”

Gaimon, 29, has considerable experience in the US domestic peloton, while Woods comes from a distance running background and is a relative newcomer to cycling. Carney said he has had his eye on Woods for several seasons and believes the 28-year-old is ready to make the jump to Optum.

“I received an email from Svein Tuft about Mike about three years ago,” Carney said. “They raced together on the [Canadian] national team at the Tour de Beauce, and Svein reached out to me to let me know, and so I've been kind of keeping an eye on him the last couple of years.

“He's really green coming out of running, but last year he really seemed to take a big step performance-wise, but also race strategy and stuff as well. So I just felt like he was ready to jump over to the team, and he's a really big talent.”

Woods raced with Garneau-Quebecor in 2013 and signed with Amore & Vita last year. He transferred from that Italian-based Continental squad to 5-hour Energy in June after the Tour de Beauce, where he finished second on the difficult stage that finished atop Mont Megantic. Carney became a believer when Woods put nearly a minute into Optum's Jones and Team SmartStop's Rob Britton on the final climb.

“He's had limited opportunities because he hasn't been able to get on a team that will take him to races that suit him well,” Carney said. “He hasn't had a lot of opportunities outside the Tour of Beauce on the Megantic stage. There's not a lot of races he's been able to do that are pro races with a mountain top finish, you know, that style of racing. So he did fly a little bit under the radar. But what we saw last year with him racing at the [WorldTour races] in Quebec, he's clearly ready to race at a very high level right now.”

Woods ended his season racing with the Canadian national team at the two Canadian WorldTour races in September, finishing 75th in Quebec and 25th in Montreal.

Although the team has always been strong in the fast finishes, Carney is hoping the addition of former Cannondale rider Guillaume Boivin, 25, and fellow Canadian Pierrick Naud, 24, will give the team even more firepower in the sprints. Boivin rode for Cannondale the past two season, while Naud comes to the team from Garneau-Quebecor. The two riders will provide Optum with a host of options in race finales, although Eric Young will continue to be the team's go-to man for the field sprints.

“Guys like Guillaume, [Ryan] Anderson, Pierrick Naud and those guys are more suited toward a more difficult course, which we actually have quite a few of,” Carney said. “It's always great to have a lot of depth in the sprinting area. Definitely there could be some times when we're not sure who we would be racing for on any given day, but I have confidence that these guys are going to do the right thing and sacrifice for each other. What comes around always goes around in that area.”

Optum is also returning a group of riders that have formed the core of the squad over the past several years. Familiar names like Tom Zirbel, Jesse Anthony, Bjorn Selander, Tom Soloday and Scott Zwizanski are back on the roster, but longtime Optum road captains Mike Freidman and Alex Candelario retired in the off season. Carney said he's looking to Zwizanski and Brad Huff to fill those roles this year.

“We do have other guys on the team who have an incredible amount of experience, guys like Phil Gaimon and Will Routley, etc.,” Carney said. “So I think we have a lot of experience and a lot of guys who can help guide the team, but from my experience so far, just working with Brad and working with Scott Zwizanski, those two guys have already kind of taken on that role. I feel confident those guys can handle it.”

The Optum men will open up their season later this month at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal. With eight WorldTour teams on the start list, the UCI 2.1 race will provide plenty of competition. Team Sky's Richie Porte is on the start list, along with World Champion Michal Kwiatkowski and Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) and Lotto-Belisol sprinter Andre Greipel.

Nevertheless, Carney said he has several riders who are “very fired up” for the race, and he's hoping the team can make an impact on the event.

“I don't know if it will be a stage or a field sprint, or chasing a jersey, or maybe even GC, but I think we're going to treat it similar to the way we treat the Tour of California,” he said. “We kind of have to swing for the fences to have an impact at the race. So our goal will be to come out of the race with something. But we're pretty well aware that some of the world's biggest teams, and some of the best individual cyclists in the world are going to be competing in that race. So we're going to have to be aggressive and be crafty.”

Carney said the flat time trial on stage 3 should favor a big rider like Tom Zirbel, and he sees opportunities for his sprinters on the Algarve roster, including Anderson, Boivin and Young.

“And the way Woods and Gaimon are riding, with the two difficult stages they should have a shot at doing something as well,” Carney said. “So we feel pretty confident that we should be able to do something over there.”

Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies for 2015:
Ryan Anderson (CAN), Jesse Anthony (USA), Guillaume Boivin (CAN), Phil Gaimon (USA), Brad Huff (USA), Pierrick Naud (CAN), Will Routley (CAN), Bjorn Selander (USA), Tom Soladay (USA), Curtis White (USA), Michael Woods (CAN), Eric Young (USA), Tom Zirbel (USA), Scott Zwizanski (USA)