The band is back together. Eric Marcotte and Travis McCabe, the formidable duo of Arizona racers who finished first and second, respectively, in the 2014 USA Cycling National Championships road race, are back on the same roster this year at the UnitedHealthcare Professional Continental team.
Last week at the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina, the pair raced together for the first time since the former SmartStop team disbanded after the 2015 season and they went their separate ways – Marcotte to Jamis and then Cylance, McCabe to Holowesko and then UnitedHealthcare last year.
"It's super cool, man, and I'm rooming with him, too," Marcotte told Cyclingnews before the final stage of the Argentinean race on Sunday. “It’s good. He's like a younger brother almost."
McCabe, 28, and Marcott, 37, both came up in cycling from the Arizona amateur scene before riding on a national level with the Elbowz elite squad. They both joined SmartStop as trainees at the end of 2013, and then stuck with the squad the next year as it transitioned from a criterium focus to a top domestic stage race and one-day team.
The pair shocked US cycling when they took control of the 2014 US pro road race from a small group and then took the top two spots ahead of Garmin-Sharp’s Alex Howes. But their collaboration ended when SmartStop folded after the 2015 season.
McCabe signed with Unitedhealthcare from Holowesko last year, and Marcotte signed on with UnitedHealthcare for this season after racing with Cylance in 2017. Marcotte also raced for the former Jamis team in 2016, which was directed by UnitedHealthcare's current director Sebastian Alexandre.
"The shake-and-bake is back and live, so it’s pretty awesome," McCabe told Cyclingnews. "It's pretty cool, too, with the Arizona boys, coming up with Eric and going through the ranks. Pretty much going from racing at the amateur level and having Eric see me and see the potential in me, and then slowly moving up to Pro Continental together again is pretty special."
Putting a bug in UHC's ear
Marcotte is a powerful rouleur with a good sprint who won the 2015 US criterium championship, and he's got a knack for finishing well in one-day races. Because of Cylance's somewhat limited budget, he raced sparingly in 2017 but ended his season at the Tour of Britain.
With a full-time chiropractic practice in Arizona still ongoing, he thought 2017 might be the end of his pro road racing career as he considered throwing in with the growing USA Cycling track program.
"Maybe I put a bug in Seba’s ear to be like, 'Hey, you know if you have a spot for what I can do, let me know.' Somewhere in September or so he gave me a shout and asked if I was still looking to do this," Marcotte said.
"I looked at what I wanted to do at my office and all that stuff, and I thought, 'How many more times am I going to get a chance to race with Travis at this level, so let me do it.'"
Marcotte continues to see patients when he’s not at races – in fact he told Cyclngnews he had appointments lined up for the day he returned from Argentina – but he dialed things back enough for training and travel.
Hoping to conquer the cobbles
Marcotte started his tenure with UHC at the team's recent training camp in Colombia, a country on which he heaped a lot of praise for it's cycling and beauty.
"It's super unique, riding in these countries," he said at the race in Argentina. "Of course you're at a race here so you get a police escort, but there, you see Rigoberto Uran behind a moto, and everybody is really much more respected on a bike there, so it was really cool. I'd definitely go back."
After the Vuelta a San Juan, Marcotte will return home before setting off on another new adventure – his first-ever races in Belgium. UHC will compete in the GP Samyn at the end of the February and then head into March at the Johan Museeuw Classic. Nokere Koerse, Handzame Classic and the Three Days of De Panne are also on the team's calendar, among other races.
"The team will have their GC and climbing teams, and then I'll be more in the crits and the one-day stuff," Marcotte said.
"This is a little different racing than maybe what we'll see in Belgium, but I think, typically if I can find the rhythm of the race and it's an attrition one, I can usually do well or help the team do well," he said of his one-day skills.
As far as the cobbles and the infamously narrow roads of northern Europe, the whole scene will be brand new for him.
"No. Not yet," he said when asked if he’s ever competed in Belgium. "So it's going to be on, man. No fear. You just have to be at the pointy end as much as you can without being stupid. Hopefully, I can muscle my way through it."