McNulty, 18, took the rainbow jersey at the UCI Road World Championships in Qatar last month with a time that would have earned the Arizona resident a bronze medal in the U23 race. In two years with the USA Cycling junior national team, McNulty built an impressive international palmarés that includes third place at the 2015 junior time trial world championship in Richmond.
In 2015, McNulty won the four-day Course de la Paix in the Czech Republic ahead of teammate Adrien Costa after taking the lead with a time trial victory. He won the individual time trial at Driedaagse van Axel and was second behind Costa in the overall at the Tour l'Abitibi after winning the opening stage and the time trial. This year he won time trial stages in Pays de Vaud and Trofeo Karlsberg, where he also won the overall. He increased his result one spot at l'Abitibi in 2016, taking the overall victory in the Canadian Nations Cup race.
Domestically, McNulty won two national individual time trial titles in 2015 and 2016, and he was part of the squad that won a team time trial national title with the LUX Development Team. Racing the national calendar with the Lux-Stradling U19 team, McNulty won the individual time trial stage at the Chico Stage Race in February ahead of Rally's Evan Huffman, leading the general classification until the final day. McNulty finished second overall at the San Dimas Stage Race behind Jamis' Colombian climber Janier Acevedo and added several criterium wins throughout the season.
McNulty said in a statement released by the team on Thursday that learning opportunities led him to sign with Rally.
"One thing Rally Cycling has to offer that strictly U23 teams don't is the opportunity to race with and learn from guys who have been professionals for a long time," he said. "They have a tremendous amount of experience and it is a great opportunity to learn from some of the best riders in the peloton."
The team's 2017 roster will include veterans like Danny Pate, Brad Huff, Jesse Anthony and Rob Britton, while McNulty will also find younger cohorts in Adam de Vos, Sepp Kuss and new signings Colin Joyce and Matteo Dal-Cin.
"The main goal this season is to learn as much as possible and to develop the skills and knowledge needed to have a long and successful career in the sport," he said. “I also am really looking forward to helping out the team, and maybe having a shot at getting a result or two myself.”
Rally Cycling Performance Director Jonas Carney said he and his Rally directors have kept an eye on McNulty since they started supporting the Lux development team several years ago.
"We are thrilled to welcome Brandon to the Rally Cycling family," Carney said. “While our program is not a 'development' team, we have a lot of experience nurturing young riders. Brandon is a big talent, and it's important that he learns as much as possible over the next couple years so that he is fully prepared for a career in Europe.”
Lux-Stradling director Roy Knickman, a former Olympian who rode for La Vie Claire and 7-Eleven during his own career, said the "sky is the limit" for the young rider. Knickman, who has been working with Brandon since 2014, described him as an easy-going-yet-disciplined athlete.
"When I looked at what was behind his performances, I realized there was still a large amount of potential and improvement possible if he was given the right resources and guidance," Knickman said. "The sky is the limit for Brandon. His time trial performances already have him on par with the best U23 riders in the world. His body will mature, and he will develop the capacity to do more race days in succession. One day he’ll be ready for a Grand Tour."
Slight tweaks for 2017 roster
The team's 2017 roster will be tweaked only slightly from this year. Tom Zirbel and Will Routley retired, but the rest of the roster remains mostly intact, with Britton, Pate and Huffman carrying the general classification hopes. They are joined by veteran strong men Jesse Anthony and Tom Soladay along with talented climbers Adam de Vos, Emerson Oronte and Kuss. Also returning is Rally Cycling’s sprint train, including National Criterium Champion Brad Huff, Shane Kline, Pierrick Naud, Curtis White and Eric Young.
"Looking toward the future, pursuing the best young riders in North America is a major priority for Rally Cycling," Carney said. “We already have an incredibly strong selection of young guys in McNulty, Joyce, Kuss and White. We plan to expand that group in the coming years. These riders, combined with the strength and experience of the veterans on the team make for a strong, diverse team that will be competitive in races throughout the season."
2017 Rally Cycling: Jesse Anthony, Robert Britton, Matteo Dal-Cin, Adam de Vos, Brad Huff, Evan Huffman, Colin Joyce, Shane Kline, Sepp Kuss, Brandon McNulty, Pierrick Naud, Emerson, Oronte, Danny Pate, Tom Soladay, Curtis White, Eric Young