The Minneapolis-based Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies organisation unveiled the 2013 rosters for the men's UCI Continental squad plus the newly UCI-registered women's team, featuring key re-signings and eight new additions.
"Both the men's and women's teams had a lot of success in 2012 and we didn't want to change the formula too much. We worked hard to keep the core together and make a couple of strategic additions," said Performance Director Jonas Carney.
The women's squad won the 2012 National Racing Calendar (NRC) team title and returns such stalwarts as Jade Wilcoxson, third overall in this season's individual NRC standings, 2011 NRC champion Janel Holcomb and the Canadian duo of Joelle Numainville and Denise Ramsden. Both riders rode for Team Canada in the 2012 London Olympic Games, and Ramsden claimed her country's national championship in the road race discipline earlier this summer.
Four new riders will join the team in 2013 to round out Performance Director Rachel Heal's 11-woman roster, highlighted by Lauren Hall from TIBCO-To The Top, a multi-talented rider who won two US national championships on the track in 2012 (scratch race and individual pursuit) plus earned silver medals at road nationals in both the elite women's criterium and road race.
Also new to the team are Grace Alexander, a 2012 junior national champion in the mountain bike discipline in the cross country event. Alexander had four additional podium finishes in junior national championships in 2012 including silver in the short track cross country, plus three medals on the road in the road race (silver), criterium (bronze) and time trial (silver). Joining Alexander are Amber Gaffney, 2012 bronze medalist in the elite women's team pursuit national championship, plus Brianna Walle.
"We had a phenomenal year in 2012 and I am happy that we've retained the core strengths of our team for 2013," said Heal. "We've also added some great riders - Lauren [Hall] is an experienced and versatile road racer, and we have some great up-and-coming talent joining the ranks. Upgrading our status will also allow us to compete in bigger events around the world, which is very exciting."
The men's team amassed 100 podiums and 48 wins during the 2012 season, including the US pro criterium title and nine UCI wins by sprinter Ken Hanson, and Carney looks to bolster soft spots with strategic signings, particularly 2011 pro criterium champion Eric Young (from Bissell) and former WorldTour rider Bjorn Selander, who spent 2012 on Canadian Pro Continental team Spidertech p/b C10 after two seasons at Team RadioShack.
"The addition of Eric Young means we have the last two national criterium champions, and this will make our team even more dangerous in field sprints," said Carney. "Hanson did a fantastic job this year, but we cannot expect him to attend every race and be on form for nine months straight. Eric is going to give us depth at that position. When it comes to field sprinting, it's always better to have a dual-pronged attack. Those two guys will be hard to beat with Cando (Alex Candelario) and [Mike] Friedman leading them out."
Minnesota native Bjorn Selander, 24, brings considerable stage racing and climbing ability at the highest level of the sport, including the 2011 Giro d'Italia where he wore the best young rider's jersey for two days. The son of a Norwegian professional cyclist and Olympian, Selander also has a pedigree in cyclo-cross where he's earned US national titles in the junior and U23 ranks.
"We feel like he's an incredibly talented rider that had a tough season this past season with an injury," Carney told Cyclingnews. "We feel that he's going to be a big contributor to the team next year in the difficult road races and stage races.
"Bjorn is from the Midwest and he's kind of a friend of the team. Our team is based in Minneapolis and I've tried to recruit Bjorn in the past but this is the first time that it's worked out. We know Bjorn and we know his family so it's a natural fit for our program."
The men's team also added elite cyclo-cross racers Jeremy Durrin and Mitchell Hoke, both 24 years old, to the 2013 roster.
"Mitch Hoke and Jeremy Durrin will both be racing 'cross with us next fall and cyclo-cross will be their main focus," Carney told Cyclingnews. "However, they are both big talents and we'll be giving them some opportunities on the road next summer to build fitness for the 'cross season."
2013 Men's Roster
Jesse Anthony (USA)
Alex Candelario (USA)
Marsh Cooper (Can)
Mike Creed (USA)
Mike Friedman (USA)
Chad Haga (USA)
Ken Hanson (USA)
Ian Moir (USA)
Sebastian Salas (Can)
Mike Sherer (USA)
Tom Soladay (USA)
Tom Zirbel (USA)
Scott Zwizanski (USA)
Jeremy Durrin (USA)
Mitchell Hoke (USA)
Bjorn Selander (USA)
Eric Young (USA)
2013 Women's Roster
Annie Ewart (Can)
Janel Holcomb (USA)
Leah Kirchmann (Can)
Courteney Lowe (NZl)
Joelle Numainville (Can)
Denise Ramsden (Can)
Jade Wilcoxson (USA)
Grace Alexander (USA)
Amber Gaffney (USA)
Lauren Hall (USA)
Brianna Walle (USA)
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