The Optum Pro Cycling men are bringing their 2015 season to a close at the top of the UCI America Tour, which encompasses the top UCI races in the Western Hemisphere. This is the first time Optum has led the season-long series and caps off a year that director Jonas Carney said has been the most successful in the team's history.
"Finishing our season as the number one team in the Western Hemisphere is pretty cool, and it validates our efforts this year," Carney said.
"We don't have many ways to measure the season as a whole against our rivals, but the UCI America's Tour includes all of the most important races in North America, so it's a pretty good gauge. We didn't chase points in South America, Central America or the Caribbean, and every one of our points came from racing in the US and Canada. It indicates that this was our best season yet."
Although the team is brining its season to an and at the top of the rankings, the 2015 America Tour will continue with four more races in Latin America, concluding on Christmas Day with at the Vuelta Ciclista Internacional a Costa Rica.
Optum currently leads Carrefour-Funvic by 88 points and Hincapie Racing by 89. Hincapie's Toms Skujins of Latvia leads the individual rankings ahead of Byron Guama (Team Ecuador), Optum’s Michael Woods, Argentina's Daniel Diaz (Carrefour-Funvic) and Spaniard Oscar Sevilla (EPM-UNE).
Woods earned the lion's share of Optum's team points this season after winning stage at the Tour of Utah and leading the race for a day. Woods, who signed with Cannondale-Garmin for 2016, started his first year with Optum with a win in Portugal.
Woods flew onto the radar in February and March in Portugal, climbing with some of the WorldTour's best riders at the UCI 2.1 Volta ao Algarve and winning the one-day Clássica Internacional Loulé.
"Having the confidence and support of the team and the staff enabled me to go to Portugal and kick off the season with the best result, at that time, in my career," Woods said. "This bolstered my confidence, and I think made me believe that as long as I worked hard and stayed consistent I could continue to get big, and even bigger, results."
Sprinter Eric Young added 75 points to the team's coffers with stage wins at New Mexico's Tour of the Gila and the Tour of Utah. With Woods collecting top tens at some of North America's toughest climbing stages, all-rounders Ryan Anderson and Guillaume Boivin excelled in the toughest races and toughest conditions. Boivin finishes the season 13th on the America Tour. Anderson added 72 poinst for the team despite losing several months of racing with a collarbone injury.
Carney said it was unlikely that the team will defend its America Tour lead in the remaining races because the North American squad wrapped up its year last week at the World Championship team time trial, where Optum finished 17th.
"Our guys are ready to start their off-seasons and recharge their batteries with an eye on 2016," Carney said. "It'll be a shame if we get passed by a South American team before the end of the year, but we need to focus on what will help us garner great results in the US and Canada in 2016."
UCI America's Tour Top 10 (as of September 28)
1. Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies | United States | 489
2. Funvic - San Jose Dos Campos | Brazil | 401
3. Hincapie Racing Team | United States | 400
4. UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team | United States | 343
5. EPM - UNE - Area Metropolitina | Colombia | 332.2
6. Team SmartStop | United States | 315
7. Team Ecuador | Ecuador | 287
8. Orgulla Antioqueno | Colombia | 200
9. Jamis - Hagens Berman | United States | 190
9. Silber Pro Cycling | Canada | 190