UnitedHealthcare's riders are competing under a cloud of uncertainty this week at the Colorado Classic after news broke earlier this year that the team's title sponsor will not return next season. But that didn't slow down either the men's or women's squads during Friday's Vail Pass time trial.
Katie Hall and Leah Thomas started things rolling for the blue-and-white team by taking the top two places in their race, respectively. Gavin Mannion and Serghei Tvetcov followed suit a couple of hours later, with Mannion taking top honours and Tvetcov coming in second place behind him. Hall and Mannion now also lead their respective overall standings.
The podium was filled with the UHC logo and kit, and the timing couldn't have been better as both teams are racing in the US for the final time.
"It feels really special and a little bittersweet as a team because our team is maybe folding; we're still looking for sponsors," said Hall, a five-year veteran of the team. "So to go one-two in both the men's and women's race just kind of shows that we really have a special thing going, at least on the women's side, and I know that the men do, too."
Team owner Thierry Attias told Cyclingnews earlier this week that he has set an August 30 deadline to find a new sponsor for the team after he was unable to meet the August 15 deadline to re-apply for the men's Pro Continental licence.
"The team has not requested a Pro Conti licence at this point," Attias said. "We are still waiting on final decisions from two potential partners."
Despite their nebulous future, the teams showed their mettle on Friday, and Mannion said the sponsorship issues don't affect the competition.
"Personally, I don't really think about it once I'm on the bike," he said. "Obviously, kind of the whole second half of the year we've known that there will be sponsorship issues at the end of the season, but the best way to race is always as a team, and no one has really gone out and raced as an individual just thinking about themselves. I think we'll continue that trend for the rest of the week, and I think that will probably be best for everyone.
"As riders, we kind of only know as much as they say on Cyclingnews, so hopefully they'll find something in the coming weeks, but we don't really know a ton more than you guys," he said.
For Thomas, who joined the team this year from Twenty20-Sho Air, Friday's result is a fitting tribute to the team.
"It's always special to go one-two in a time trial," Thomas said. "We've been fortunate enough to do it in various forms a couple of times this season, but to be able to do it in the last race that we'll do together on the US calendar is a nice way to go out."
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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and 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, with his imaginary dog Rusty.
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