Team Optum aims for top-15 result at TTT Worlds

For the second straight year US-based Continental team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies will contest the team time trial event at the world championships having earned an invite based on the squad's performance in the UCI America Tour. Two other US-based teams, Pro Continental UnitedHealthcare and Continental Jamis-Hagens Berman, also received bids from the America Tour rankings but declined their invitations.

The elite men's team time trial world championship, 57.2km in length, will be contested on the September 22, the first day of racing at the Tuscany, Italy-hosted event.

For Team Optum, it's all about improving on last year's 20th place finish in the 2012 team time trial Worlds, an event which returned to the world championship program after last being contested in 1994.

"We were happy with that [result] last year in that there were 33 teams, all the WorldTour teams plus all the best Pro Conti teams in the world, and we were able to beat 13 teams being a Continental program," Optum's performance director Jonas Carney told Cyclingnews at the USA Pro Challenge.

"But we want to do significantly better than that this year. That's what we're shooting for, I'd like to see the team get a top-15 this year. It's really just a great opportunity for our team to compete on the world stage against the best teams in the world so we don't want to turn that opportunity down."

Team Optum will travel to Italy following their participation in the Tour of Alberta, which concludes on September 9.

"It's not a very complicated trip for us. We're doing Cascade, Elk Grove, Utah, Colorado, Alberta and Univest all in one stretch with no rest," said Carney. "We're going to fly into Italy, train on the course and do a bit of a camp to get ready for it. I think the guys will be coming off of some really good fitness based on the races that we're doing.

"The guys have known all year that this is something that we wanted to focus on and our guys tend to train on their time trial bikes a lot."

Carney told Cyclingnews that he expects his six-man squad to be comprised of Scott Zwizanski, Tom Zirbel, Chad Haga, Jesse Anthony, Ryan Anderson and Mike Friedman.

UnitedHealthcare, Jamis-Hagens Berman consider future Worlds trips

The other two US-based squads which earned an invite to the team time trial world championships each opted to decline this year for similar reasons.

"We feel that if we were going to go there we'd want to put some time and focus into doing it," UnitedHealthcare general manager Mike Tamayo told Cyclingnews. "Everything we do is with focus, confidence and direction. Could we go? Yes. Do we have the infrastructure in Europe? Yes. Can we throw six guys together and go? Yes. But is that worth it to get 17th place? No.

"If we're going to go we're going to do it right. So we're going to decline our invitation and we are putting some thought into it for 2014 and 2015. We'll probably put some preparation into that for next year."

Jamis-Hagens Berman's directeur sportif Sebastian Alexandre related a similar explanation.

"We started the season with the goal to be in the biggest races in the US, and we accomplished that goal, so we really weren't looking for that (TTT Worlds bid)," Alexander told Cyclingnews. "Honestly, we're very proud and honoured to be invited but we're not quite ready for that. We prefer to pass this opportunity and maybe next year know it may happen so we can start to think about it more seriously.

"We start racing in January in Argentina at [Tour de] San Luis and we don't have a deep roster. Everybody's up to here now and we can't keep pushing for something we're not ready for."

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Based in the southeastern United States, Peter produces race coverage for all disciplines, edits news and writes features. The New Jersey native has 30 years of road racing and cyclo-cross experience, starting in the early 1980s as a Junior in the days of toe clips and leather hairnets. Over the years he's had the good fortune to race throughout the United States and has competed in national championships for both road and 'cross in the Junior and Masters categories. The passion for cycling started young, as before he switched to the road Peter's mission in life was catching big air on his BMX bike.