After one of the most successful seasons of his career, 27-year-old John Murphy will leave the Continental team Kenda/5 Hour Energy, having been released from a two-year contract, and move back to his roots with UnitedHealthcare in 2013.
UnitedHealthcare announced its full roster this week, adding eight new riders: Lucas Euser, Alessandro Bazzana, Luke Keough, Aldo Ilesic, Kiel Reijnen, Martin Irvine, Danny Summerhill and Murphy, and 11 returning: Jake Keough, Hilton Clarke, Robert Förster, Marc de Maar, Jeff Louder, Ben Day, Jonny Clarke, Brad White, Chris Jones, Philip Deignan, Karl Menzies, Davide Frattini and Adrian Hegyvary.
Murphy began his professional career with the Momentum Sports Group and the HealthNet team in 2007, and remained with the organisation until his move to the WorldTour with BMC in 2010.
"I'm really excited to be coming back with UnitedHealthcare. I spent the first two years of my career with Momentum Sports as HealthNet and Ouch - so, it's kind of a homecoming for me," Murphy said to Cyclingnews.
Murphy explained that the split from Kenda was amicable, and came after an opportunity with UnitedHealthcare arose during the summer.
"I had a two-year contract with Kenda, but that was hinging on them finding another sponsor. They've been on a sponsor hunt to make the team bigger and better. Around mid-summer we didn't have a lot of answers, and when I talked to [UHC manager Mike] Tamayo it was an opportunity we both agreed I should take. It was very amicable."
Murphy said that Kenda manager Chad Thompson of Inferno Racing recognized that UnitedHealthcare could offer more racing in Europe, which Kenda was less likely to be able to put forth. Having spent two seasons overseas with BMC, Murphy was keen to have a second chance at some of the semi-Classics overseas.
"Inferno was awesome to let me take this opportunity, it's going to be a great year," he said.
Having won the overall Tour de Taiwan in 2008 with HealthNet and shown himself against the WorldTour riders in the sprints at the Tour of Missouri in 2009, Murphy was recruited to BMC the following year and had the chance to test his mettle in some of the sport's biggest races: Tour of Qatar, the Giro d'Italia, Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix. But it was challenging racing far away from home, constantly battling the best riders of the WorldTour.
"Even with a team as stacked as BMC was, I wasn't without opportunities. The problem was, the racing was often so hard that it didn't show as much. I'm hoping with UHC next year I'll be doing some stuff in Europe - the schedule is still to be decided, but we should get another crack at some of the semi-Classics in Belgium in the spring and then go from there."
Murphy is eager to test himself after a re-invigorating season back in the USA.
"Coming into 2012, I was really happy with Kenda, and happy to be home, with the lifestyle it brought. Spending more days at home than on the road was something that I wasn't used to since 2010. It provided me with the stability that I needed to buckle down and step it up to the next level. When you're home, everything is simple. You can focus more and train better, and live better than you can out of a suitcase, which we are so often doing as bike racers."
The change paid off: Murphy started the year by winning the time trial at the Valley of the Sun stage race in February, wore the leader's jersey for two stages at the Nature Valley Grand Prix, won two races at the Tour of Americas Dairyland, and finished second overall at the UCI 2.1 Tour of Elk Grove.
"The year with Kenda was great, We had a really strong core group of guys, and we had a lot of fun. We won a lot of races. Our team had an incredibly successful year: we won San Dimas and Redlands, and took second and third overall at Elk Grove."
With the move to UnitedHealthcare, Murphy expects to see even more success on the road.
"On paper, the team is incredible. It will be a good balance with the stage racers and sprint teams. My predominant role will be working with Jake [Keough] and Robert Förster and our sprint train. We have so many fast guys this year, it will be interesting to see exactly how we handle all the speed and power we have."
While his schedule is still in the works, Murphy hopes that he can earn his place in the big US races such as Tour of California through his early-season performances.
"I think California would be a big race for me. It's a big race for the team. All the races in America are big for UHC. I hope to show through results and hard work that I can be there. You have to earn a spot, and that's what I plan on trying to do."
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