TUNJA, Colombia (VN) — The six North America riders from Rally Pro Cycling sat in the hot seat for much of Tuesday’s team time trial at the Tour Colombia 2.1, having blazed a fast time in the 16.7-kilometer stage around this town north of Bogota.
Only near the end of the stage did the Rally riders have to step down—the squad finished fourth place overall behind WorldTour teams EF Pro Cycling, Deceuninck—Quick-Step, and Team Ineos. The North American team, which races at the Pro Continental level, beat three WorldTour squads: UAE-Team Emirates, Team Movistar, and Israel Start-Up Nation.
“We did a great ride, we had some strong guys out there really taking it up a notch,” said Rally’s Robin Carpenter following the stage. “The wind was strong so you had to plan for that and I was definitely feeling the first hard effort in the altitude. I wasn’t recovering as much on the wheel as I wanted to. We’re stoked to take it to a couple WorldTour teams today.”
The impressive ride sets the team up to capitalize on one of its primary objectives for the entire 2020 season here in Colombia. The team has spent the majority of the past two seasons targeting races across the Atlantic.
The team is racing in South America for the first time in its history, due to its new partnership with Colmédica, a branch of the UnitedHealth Group, of which Rally sits under. UnitedHealth Group employs 4,000 people in Colombia under the Colmédica brand.
“Connecting those employees with the team is a great way to help them feel connected to the enterprise,” said Bart Reed, vice president of marketing for UnitedHealthcare Global in a release.
The chance to race in the America’s gives team sponsors added exposure, raising the visibility of the team since the lost opportunity with the cancellation of the Amgen Tour of California this season. The seven-day race across California was historically the team’s biggest event of the year, bringing it exposure across North America.
The result in Colombia sets the squad up to target the general classification with American Gavin Mannion. Mannion recently finished 9th on GC at the Vuelta San Juan in January, after crashing on the first stage and dislocating his shoulder. He was able to come back for a top-10 finish, thanks to an impressive team effort.
“I had some bad luck on the first day with a crash in San Juan, but luckily it ended up not really affecting me for the overall,” Mannion said of opening the season in Argentina. “I can’t really say I have too many expectations this week. We have some of the best riders in the world here, so it’ll be good to just see where the form is in February and if GC is an ambition.”
Nearly half the team has experience racing in Colombia with past programs, including Mannion. Since losing Brandon McNulty to UAE-Team Emirates, the squad has refocused itself on breakaways and stage victories. The squad may chase both GC and stage victories here in Colombia.
Rally may not have to work too hard with both Deceuninck—Quick Step and Team Ineos looking to make up over 45 seconds on GC. Robin Carpenter, Gavin Mannion, Kyle Murphy and Colin Joyce are all 13 seconds down from Team Ineos and within range to fight for GC.
“We road the hill top finish on stage 4, that could split it up a little bit but I think it’s all going to come down to that last stage,” said Nate Brown, the team’s road captain. “It’s going to be fireworks, and you know where the chips fall, they fall.”