The Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies women’s UCI team will refocus on developing riders next season as the American team brings in an almost entirely new cast of riders for 2016.
Jasmin Glaesser, who briefly led the Redlands Bicycle Classic this year and took the QOM jersey at the Philly Cycling Classic, will be the lone rider returning from the 2015 squad. Glaesser was part of the Optum roster that won the US team time trial championship in April and is an accomplished track racer, having won medals in team pursuit at the 2012 Olympics and the Pan American Games. She also won gold this year at the Pan Am Games Road Race race in Toronto.
Optum signed former National Criterium Calendar champion Erica Allar and all-rounder Jessica Prinner from Colavita-Bianchi to headline the 2016 criterium team, while Glaesser and Canadian pursuit squad teammate Kirsti Lay, who won the mountains classification this year at the Tour of California, will feature in road races as they prepare to qualify for Canada’s 2016 Olympic team.
In a move toward developing young talent, Optum will also bring on board one of the top prospects from the junior ranks in Emma White, who recently finished second to US teammate Chloe Dygert in both the junior World Championship time trial and road race.
“It has always been a dream of mine to race for this team,” White said. “I couldn't be more excited to be on the same team and race with some of the strongest women in the sport. I look forward to gaining new experiences and growing as an athlete, teammate and overall person in the coming year."
Top US cyclo-cross racer Elle Anderson will come aboard following the 2015-16 cyclo-cross season, joining new recruits Heather Fischer and time trial specialist Hannah Ross. The team also signed promising young Canadians Sara Poidevin and Katherine Maine.
Optum will lose the services of top veteran riders like Brianna Walle to Tibco-SVB, Alison Tetrick to Cylance, Annie Ewart to UnitedHealthcare and 2015 National Racing Calendar winner Leah Kirchmann to Liv-Plantur. Longtime rider Janel Holcomb retired.
Allar will likely earn plenty of headlines in the criteriums, and Glaesser can win at the NRC level, but the young road roster may have trouble putting up the kind of results the Optum women have grown accustomed to since the team's inception in 2012.
In a statement released with the roster announcement, director Jonas Carney said Optum has always been dedicated to the development of riders in North America, and that mission will continue in 2016.
“The team is excited to place a renewed focus on developing some of the best young female cyclists in North America," Carney said. "Providing opportunities to up-and-coming riders is an important part of growing the sport of women’s cycling.”
Carney also said the team will compete extensively in North American UCI and NRC events, including criteriums.
“The main objectives will be the US pro team time trial, criterium, time trial and road race championships, and of course the WorldTour races in California and Philadelphia,” he said. “The team should be well balanced and have the ability to compete at a high level in all road disciplines.”
Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies 2016 roster: Erica Allar, Elle Anderson, Heather Fischer, Jasmin Glaesser, Kirsti Vivian Lay, Katherine Maine, Sara Poidevin, Jessica Prinner, Hannah Ross and Emma White.
Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.
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