Rally Cycling is gearing up for a busy August, as the Pro Continental team will send split squads to races in the US and Europe.
The racing starts Wednesday at the Tour of Denmark, where Ryan Anderson will lead a six-man roster that also includes Robin Carpenter, Adam de Vos, Brad Huff, Colin Joyce and Eric Young. Back in the States, defending Tour of Utah champion Rob Britton will lead a team that also includes Nigel Ellsay, Evan Huffman, Ty Magner, Kyle Murphy, Emerson Oronte and Danny Pate. That 2.HC race starts August 6 and runs through August 13.
After Utah and Denmark, the European squad will start the four-day Arctic Tour of Norway on August 16, while the US team will take on the Colorado Classic on the same dates. The European squad will finish the trip with the Deutschland Tour from August 23-26. It will be a packed month of racing for the team's first year in the Pro Continental ranks.
"We are running a dual program at times to get all of our guys the best schedule of racing possible," said team director Pat McCarty. "It is not easy to organize, but we have to make sure all of our riders have the appropriate level of competition in their legs when leading up to key events."
Defending Britton's 2017 Tour of Utah title is obviously a top priority for the team, and the seven riders that will contest the race are currently training at altitude in Nederland, Colorado.
"The guys have been there for a few weeks getting used to the altitude, and since Monday they've been doing structured training rides and motorpacing sessions with each other," McCarty said. "Everyone seems fit, healthy and ready to defend the title. We have also put together a team that will be strong to defend and one that is capable of individual stage results as well."
Britton said he's feeling every bit as good as he did last year going into the race.
"I'm looking forward to a little rest to freshen up and then start things up in a week in St. George," he said. "We've had the whole team up here this last week in Ned and I've been really impressed with what I've seen. We've got some great depth for the demands of the course. Our climbers are looking great, and Ty is also looking super fit and fast."
Magner won a sprint stage last year in Utah and is a powerful workhorse on the flats, while Pate is a seasoned road captain who can make calls on the fly. Murphy, Ellsay and Oronte will be there for Britton on the climbs, while Huffman is a likely stage hunter with his all-round talents.
The August trip to Europe will be the second this season for Rally, which ventured across the pond in the spring as the team prepared riders for the Tour of California. The trip starts with 2.HC races Denmark and Norway and wraps up with the 2.1 Deutschland Tour.
For Rally's Carpenter, the trip is an opportunity to test himself on the European roads and against the top teams.
"We have a lot of quality race days and I'm eager to see what I can do," he said. "I had a miserable Tour of California due to illness, and I'm really hoping to capitalize on some opportunities at these stage races. None of them are very mountainous, which I feel gives me a shot not only at stages but also possible GC results at races like the Tour of Denmark and the Arctic Race of Norway.
"I do like racing in Europe; it's a challenge, but it is always good to challenge ourselves," Carpenter said. "Without new challenges, we can't grow. The races that we did in Spain and Portugal [in the spring] really offered another look into the different ways that people tactically approach bike races. I think it's good for me and good for the team."
Carpenter has raced in Utah every year since 2013, winning stage 2 in Torrey in 2016 and regularly featuring in breakaways, but he said the opportunity to gain experience in Europe beckons.
"I will definitely miss visiting Utah this year, no doubt about it," he said. "It's a beautiful race and I love the state, but I think that our European calendar will suit me better as a rider. I've also gotten to prepare at home instead of doing an altitude camp, which is always a plus."
Having dual squads racing in Europe and the US is an ambitious decision for Rally, but McCarty said the team wants to capitalise on all the race invitations that come Rally's way.
"Coming off a highly successful season in 2017, where we had wins against other Pro Conti and WT teams, we announced that we were going to make the next step and begin to grow our program," he said. "I think organizers, who had paid attention to our team in the past were excited to help a successful team gain some key invites at the next level. And I think we've done an excellent job this year to make the most of those invites."