Huff, Jones join Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies in 2014

Former Bissell Pro Cycling rider and 2013 Amgen Tour of California mountains classification winner Carter Jones will ride for Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies next season, team performance director Jonas Carney told Cyclingnews this week. Also joining the US-based Continental team for 2014 is new recruit Brad Huff, the former Jelly Belly rider who announced his move Thursday on a podcast with retired Optum rider Mike Creed.

"I've been at Jelly Belly for six years, and you get to that point where you need to change, you need a little spark to get your motivation going in a different direction," Huff told Creed on his Open Mic podcast. "So I'm super excited about it. I'm smarter with my training, and I know what needs to be done."

Huff said Optum made him an offer during the Tour of Utah.

Jones, the former Bissell rider who was also 8th overall this year at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and 11th at the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado, should help fill the hole in Optum's roster left by the departure of Chad Haga to WorldTour team Argos-Shimano. Optum also lost sprinter Ken Hanson to UnitedHealthcare, leaving an opening for another sprint specialist like Huff.

Jones started his pro career in 2010 with Jelly Belly for one season before moving to Trek-Livestrong in 2011 and then Bissell for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Aside from the results in 2013's three big US tours, Jones was third at the San Dimas Stage Race in 2013 and took the KOM jersey at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, the first event on the National Race Calendar. Jones was forced to look for a new team this year when Bissell closed down at the end of the season.

The 24-year-old from Boulder, Colorado, is a product of the USA Cycling development program. He competed on the US junior and U23 national teams while making his way though the cycling ranks. A gifted climber, Jones also hit the podium this year during the Queen stage at the Tour de Beauce and finished ninth on the difficult Park City to Park City circuit during the final stage in Utah.

Huff, 34, of Springfield, Missouri, has been with Jelly Belly since 2008 after spending a year with the Slipstream ProTour team in 2007 and its predecessor, TIAA-CREF, in 2006. He is a multi-time national champion on the track and has scored numerous criterium wins in his career, including victories at the Dana Point Grand Prix, Super Week, Tulsa Tough, the Gateway Cup and the Nature Valley Grand Prix. He also earned a podium spot in a stage at the former Tour of Missouri.

Huff took four wins this year and hit the podium another four times. His best finish in a National Race Calendar event came at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, where he finished second in the criterium. He finished sixth in the Tour of Alberta's final stage, won by Cannondale's Peter Sagan. Huff admitted to Creed during their podcast that he had experienced several erratic years as of late, blaming himself for poor training and program choices.

"I blame that on myself on training, a little knee issue and maybe not racing the right program at times," Huff said. "But I'm learning a lot in my old age on training and nutrition."

Mike Sherer and Marsh Cooper also retired from Optum after the season, leaving the team with more spots to fill. Carney said he will announce the entire 2014 Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies roster soon.

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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.