The Holowesko-Citadel men’s pro cycling team has been enjoying one of its most exciting seasons in recent years, punctuated by several scintillating victories and a few heart-stopping near misses. In early April, the team headed to sunny Southern California for the 31st annual Redlands Bicycle Classic, and things didn’t quite play out the way the team would have hoped for.
“The Redlands Classic ended up being a bit disappointing for us, especially when our sprinter Travis McCabe was crashed out in the final turn of the Stage 4 criterium,” says Thomas Craven, Holowesko-Citadel’s Chief Sports Director. “Travis was perfectly positioned to take the win, too. But, hey, that’s bike racing. So the team really rallied behind Travis, and he was extremely motivated going into that event’s last stage, a tough circuit race. We also really wanted to shake the GC leaders up, and Travis was that determined to hang onto all of those moves and he just crushed it, winning the stage in emphatic fashion.”
The Stage 4 criterium of the 2016 Redlands Bicycle Classic ended in a mass pile-up in the very last corner of the stage, taking out race favorite Travis McCabe of the Holowesko-Citadel team.
After the Redlands Classic, the team headed back to its home base of South Carolina for the U.S. Team Time Trial and Criterium National Championships. “Unfortunately, things didn’t fall our way in those events,” says Craven. “The team rode well enough for second place in the team time trial, and the Travis McCabe took fourth in the criterium, although we were really hoping he’d be able to take the win.”
“Then the team headed down to Joe Martin Stage Race in Arkansas,” continues Craven. “And again, we were missing a little something for the first few stages of that event, but pulled something out from that last stage with a victory for Travis McCabe. Following that, it’s been a good week off for many of the riders, that is, as far as everyone who wanted to be at home was able to spend some recovery time at home. Everyone is in good health now and we’re excited to kick off the Tour of the Gila.”
Tour of the Gila is a five-day stage race in New Mexico that kicks off Wednesday, May 4, and is one of the most prestigious in the nation. This is primarily due to its series of incredibly tough stages, highlighted by the marquee event, the Gila Monster Road Race that takes place on Stage 5 and always ensures that the entire event’s final standings will come down to the very end.
“This is the fifth time we’ve been out in Silver City, New Mexico, for the Tour of the Gila” says Craven. “And with each and every event we go to, we tend to get better and better over the years. But this is the only race that we’ve never really had any major success. So we’ve got a little something to prove, especially to ourselves, and we’re hungry for some results. We had a couple of our riders—climbers Rob Squire and Jon Hornbeck—already come out for some altitude training. And we also brought out Miguel Bryon, who is one of our U23 guys and was in Europe racing for a while, and is coming back from a broken hand. This is his first race back with us, so he’ll be our guy in the sprints along with Travis McCabe.”
“This is an event that really requires you to be in contention going into the last day of racing in order to get a solid general classification result, because that last day can change everything,” says Craven. “In preparation for Gila, our guys have been spending plenty of time on their Felt DA time trial bikes, and they also spent some time in the wind tunnel, which should hopefully have a direct correlation as to how things will go for them.”
Following the Tour of the Gila, the Holowesko-Citadel team will set its sights firmly on the biggest event of their 2016 racing calendar, the Amgen Tour of California. Last year, the Holowesko squad had a banner event, taking an impressive stage victory atop a brutal summit finish. That win put the team in the GC leader’s golden jersey, which they kept for several days. This year, the team has equally big aspirations, and will be looking to surprise the international contingent of riders yet again.
“For us, we’ll be really focusing on stage wins at the Amgen Tour of California, which kicks off May 15 in the city of San Diego,” says Craven. “It’s a huge race for us and many other teams. The quality of the field, and the fact that we’ll be racing against some of the World Tour teams, means that any type of success we can achieve will be great. So going for the low-hanging fruit of stage wins will be right up our alley. Last year, we came in as one of the biggest underdog teams, and we ended up taking an incredible stage win and spending several days in the leader’s jersey. So this year, we’ll have a slightly bigger target on our back.”
For now, though, the team is solely focused on Tour of the Gila, which kicks off Wednesday with a tough 92-mile, point-to-point road race that begins in Silver City and ends at the ghost town of Mogollon.
“Matt Accarrino, our team chef, is joining us at Tour of the Gila in order to cook the team some delicious and nutritious meals in order to fuel us properly for several days of tough racing,” says Craven. “It’ll be 9:00am starts for all the stages, which is pretty early compared to some other events, which means that our staff will be getting up at 5:00am in order to start cooking and preparing for the day. Five tough days of racing are ahead of us, and we’re ready for them.”
Brandon McNulty Il Giro di Sicilia in spectacular fashion on Saturday, with Rally UHC Cycling successfully defending his leader’s jersey on the legendary slopes of Mt Etna. McNulty finished fourth on the final stage after his teammates, one by one, sacrificed themselves en route to the greatest GC triumph in team history.
With tough early season contests in Spain and Oman under their belt, Rally UHC Cycling enters a second block of European racing with renewed strength and confidence. The team lands in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport Friday for a five-week campaign that begins in France and ends with England’s Tour de Yorkshire.
Whether you’re a seasoned veteran of cross-country mountain bike racing, or you’re looking to try your hand at your very first off-road race, your primary concern will undoubtedly be which bike to ride. Should you choose a full-suspension bike with both a suspension fork and a rear shock, or a hardtail with only a suspension fork?
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