The UnitedHealthcare men's team will take an extended stay in Europe this spring, starting February 27 in Belgium and ending April 15 in France after 15 days of racing that also include a short one-day adventure to the Netherlands.
The US Pro Continental team will start the European trip next week at GP Samyn for a full course of Belgian one-day races and the Ronde van Drenthe in the Netherlands, then wind things up in France with more one-day races leading up to Tro-Bro Léon.
Team director Hendrik Redant will have a stable of eight riders to mix and match his rosters for the races, which feature diverse terrain that will provide opportunities for all of the riders at some point during the trip.The Northern European weather and roads should also provide plenty of challenges for the team, which started the season in the South American climates in Vuelta a San Juan and Colombia Oro y Paz.
"Our riders will have to deal with the Belgian cobble roads, cold and wet circumstances, typical of the Belgian and Dutch weather, as well as with the challenging and more climbing French races," Redant said. "Nevertheless, I am sure they are all well prepared and super-motivated to fight in Europe with the top of world cycling."
Among the riders making the trip with Redant are Eric Marcotte, Alex Cataford, Daniel Eaton, Tanner Putt, Lachlan Norris, Carlos Alzate, Adrian Hegyvary and Travis McCabe
The team has yet to score a win in 2018, but McCabe came close during stage 6 in San Juan, finishing third from a breakaway after stage winner Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal) slipped away from the group in the final 5km. The 28-year-old sprinter is looking forward to racing against Classics specialists like Wallays again in Europe.
"I think it's a bit of an understatement to say how excited I am to be racing in Europe," said McCabe, the US criterium champion. "My entire career I've dreamed of racing in Paris-Roubaix, Flanders, Milan-San Remo and all great classics. Getting the chance to go over and race with UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling is the first step to making those dreams a reality. I'm most excited about proving to myself and to the Europeans that Americans can race the one-day Classics too."
Among the European-trip roster, Putt and Alzate will also be looking for their chances in the bunch sprints. Putt grabbed top 10 finishes at Le Saymn and Ronde van Drenthe during his first year with the team in 2015, and he's no doubt hungry to fight for the podium this time. Eaton, Cataford, Hegyvary and Marcotte will look for the tough power courses, while Norris, the climbing specialist, will take his chances during the hilly French races.
Cataford, who finished second overall at the 2016 Tour of the Gila in New Mexico, is also looking forward to the French races near the end of the trip.
"I'm really looking forward to competing in the top scene of cycling, the spring classics in Belgium and France," Cataford said. "I'm looking to go over there and compete for the win in every race we enter. Personally, I will be targeting the races later on in the block when we head to France. The short but numerous climbs in those races suit me and I look forward to showing what I can do."
Hegyvary and Norris are the only riders on the European roster who have yet to race with the team this year. Hegyvary went straight from the team's training camp in Colombia to Mallorca for the US National Team’s track camp. Hegyvary will travel to Appeldorn for the Track World Championships at the end of this month to compete in the Team Pursuit and Madison. He'll meet up with the team from there.
"There are only three days between my last track event and the first road race, so I think my first goal is to be patient," Hegyvary said. "I'll have the fitness for the racing but might need a couple weeks for the endurance to come around. With that in mind, I think my primary goal the whole trip will be to race aggressively for breaks. I should have the top end power to race hard on the front end of these events, and getting up the road where the pace is smoother will aid in my ability to be there at the finish and help our sprinters."
UnitedHealthcare Spring European calendar:
February 27 - GP Samyn (Belgium)
March 4 - Dwars door West-Vlaanderen ( Belgium)
March 7 - Wanzeele Koerse (Belgium)
March 11 - Ronde van Drenthe (Netherlands)
March 14 - Nokere Koerse (Belgium)
March 16 - Handzame Classic (Belgium)
March 18 - GP Denain (France)
March 21 - De Panne Classic (Belgium)
March 24 - Classique Loire Atlantique (France)
March 25 - Cholet Pays de La Loire (France)
March 30 - Route Adélie de Vitré (France)
April 1 - La Route Tourangelle (France)
April 10 - Paris – Camembert (France)
April 14 - Tour de Finistère (France)
April 15 - Tro-Bro Léon (France)