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UnitedHealthcare focuses on winning sprints in 2013

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The 2013 UnitedHealthcare team gets in more climbing in the Arizona desert.

The 2013 UnitedHealthcare team gets in more climbing in the Arizona desert. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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Phil Deignan and Martyn Irvine head up the Irish contingent on the 2013 UnitedHealthcare team.

Phil Deignan and Martyn Irvine head up the Irish contingent on the 2013 UnitedHealthcare team. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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The 2013 UnitedHealthcare team out for an Arizona training ride.

The 2013 UnitedHealthcare team out for an Arizona training ride. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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Marc de Maar leads up one of the climbs during training.

Marc de Maar leads up one of the climbs during training. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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Riders on the way out for another ride in the desert.

Riders on the way out for another ride in the desert. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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Jake Keough is back for another season with the UnitedHealthcare team.

Jake Keough is back for another season with the UnitedHealthcare team. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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The team spends another season on Neil Pryde bikes.

The team spends another season on Neil Pryde bikes. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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A group climbs up from Bartlett Lake outside of Scottsdale, AZ.

A group climbs up from Bartlett Lake outside of Scottsdale, AZ. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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Hendrik Redant is the assistant director for another season at the UnitedHealthcare team.

Hendrik Redant is the assistant director for another season at the UnitedHealthcare team. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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Jake Keough makes a big entrance at the team presentation.

Jake Keough makes a big entrance at the team presentation. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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The team gets presented at a Scottsdale resort.

The team gets presented at a Scottsdale resort. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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Danny Summerhill decided going up the climbs on two wheels wasn't enough for him.

Danny Summerhill decided going up the climbs on two wheels wasn't enough for him. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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The UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team spends time working on rotation drills.

The UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team spends time working on rotation drills. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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Sunny skys for the The UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Teams Arizona training camp.

Sunny skys for the The UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Teams Arizona training camp. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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Big views greeted the UnitedHealthcare team for its week of training.

Big views greeted the UnitedHealthcare team for its week of training. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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The UnitedHealthcare works its way through the Arizona countryside.

The UnitedHealthcare works its way through the Arizona countryside. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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The UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team for 2013.

The UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team for 2013. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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The UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team is presented for the 2013 season.

The UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team is presented for the 2013 season. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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Jake and brother Luke Keough get introduced for 2013.

Jake and brother Luke Keough get introduced for 2013. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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The UnitedHealthcare team out for a training ride near Scottsdale, AZ.

The UnitedHealthcare team out for a training ride near Scottsdale, AZ. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)

The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team team rolled out its 2013 squad in Scottsdale, Arizona last weekend, showcasing a powerful roster dedicated to increasing its number of victories this season.

After losing its strongest stage race contender, Rory Sutherland, to the WorldTour squad Saxo-Tinkoff, team manager Mike Tamayo has added reinforcements to the so-called “blue train” sprint squad and re-focused on winning one-day races and stages, rather than aiming to win stage races. It's a strategy that worked well for Bob Stapleton when he reformulated T-Mobile as High Road and racked up more wins than any other team.

The shift for UnitedHealthcare actually began mid-season in 2012, Tamayo said, and was so successful that it became a focus during the recruitment period for this year.

“Around May or June we decided to push going after stages. Our team mantra became ‘execution-execution-execution’ - it was all about teamwork and stages. Then July, August and September were excellent with stage wins in Portugal, Colorado, Utah, Britain. The team historically has never gotten the results that it got in those two months by getting a yellow jersey in Portugal, Utah and Britain. The irony is, while we weren’t chasing the yellow jersey, we were chasing stage wins, we got into the jersey in three major stage races.”

Although the Tour of Portugal was one of the most successful races for the team with three stage wins, one each by Jay Thomson, Jason McCartney and Kai Reus, all three of those riders left the team. Tamayo explained that he was more focused on team unity than individual results when hiring riders for 2013.

“We’re trying to figure out how to ramp up our results in Europe. The hardest part of the season for us was the spring (2012) we had the right group of guys for the flatter Belgian-style races and bunch kicks, but never quite got it together. What we wanted to do is take those guys and increase the level of ability with riders that have experience in those races,” he said.

The team added John Murphy from Kenda, who raced two seasons in Europe with BMC, Ino Aldo Ilesic and Tour of Austria stage winner Alessandro Bazzana. They also picked up Irish track rider Martyn Irvine, Danny Summerhill and Jake Keough’s younger brother Luke. When the road turns uphill, the team will benefit from the addition of Lucas Euser and Kiel Reijnen, winner of the 2011 Tour of Rwanda and third place finisher at the US Pro championships last year.

“Kiel had a great ride at US Pro last year, getting on the podium. He’s young, dynamic and he can get over a lot of the climbs. He has a decent kick from a small group. He’s part of our strategy in increasing our US roster in general. We felt like being a US sponsored team, we needed to increase our number of US athletes, and increase our presence at the national championships,” Tamayo said.

Although the team unsuccessfully sought out an invitation to the Vuelta a Espana in 2012, Tamayo wasn’t discounting another Grand Tour bid in the future, although perhaps not in 2013.

“We’ve tried to build up the sprint side, because it is difficult to be competitive in the general classification at an international level. In the US, at races like Tour of the Gila, sure. But at the WorldTour level it requires the kind of rider we can’t afford right now.

“But not everybody goes to the Grand Tours for the GC. There are only five guys in the world who are competitive in the GC at the Grand Tours, then 160 other guys who are in the race going for stages, whether it be prologues, time trials or sprint stages.”

The team will continue to seek out stage race invitations if only for the increased opportunities to nab stage wins, with the Tours of California, Utah, Pro Challenge in Colorado and the new Tour of Alberta as main focus in North America

“We’ll have a strong presence at the criteriums as well, they’re big for UnitedHealthcare, our sponsor. In Europe we’re going hard after the flatter races in Belgium, and putting a lot of emphasis on the spring.

“As far as stage races, we’re looking closely at what races we can best put our ‘blue train’ into effect. The Tour of Turkey was a great opportunity for us, and obviously the Tour of Britain will be a focus after our success this year. We’re still waiting for some invitations to come in for some of the bigger races, so we’ll go from there.

“We think we’ll get a little more response from the organisers once we get to Tour de San Luis. We’re looking forward to that race - we’ve been on the podium there every year. We’re hoping to pull off a win there in the early season and get some momentum going.”

The team will head to Argentina with Jake Keough, John Murphy, Alessandro Bazzana, Marc de Maar, Lucas Euser and Jeff Louder.

2013 UnitedHealthcare team:
Alessandro Bazzana
Hilton Clark
Jonathan Clarke
Ben Day
Philip Deignan
Lucas Euser
Robert Förster
Davide Frattini
Adrian Hegyvary
Aldo Ilesic
Martyn Irvine
Chris Jones
Jake Keough
Luke Keough
Jeff Louder
Marc de Maar
Karl Menzies
John Murphy
Kiel Reijnen
Danny Summerhill
Bradley White

Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A swimmer in her younger days, Laura made the change to cycling later in life, but was immediately swept up by a huge passion for the sport. Riding for fitness quickly gave way to the competitive urge, and a decade of racing later she can look back on a number of high profile races and say with confidence, "I started". While her racing days are over for the most part, she continues to dabble in cyclo-cross and competing against fellow pathletes on the greenways of Raleigh, North Carolina.

Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A swimmer in her younger days, Laura made the change to cycling later in life, but was immediately swept up by a huge passion for the sport. Riding for fitness quickly gave way to the competitive urge, and a decade of racing later she can look back on a number of high profile races and say with confidence, "I started". While her racing days are over for the most part, she continues to dabble in cyclo-cross and competing against fellow pathletes on the greenways of Raleigh, North Carolina.