Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of Velo magazine, the annual awards issue.
United Healthcare women’s team
The consistent results that the UnitedHealthcare women’s team gathered in its inaugural year were nothing short of amazing. UHC’s general manager and sporting director, Mike Tamayo, brought on a select group of both established and rising talent to complete the roster.
The combination of seasoned veterans, including Alison Powers and Mara Abbott, along with young stars, such as Hannah Barnes and Coryn Rivera, led UHC to massive success in its first year, both in the U.S. and abroad.
With the ability to win in crits, time trials, and hilly road races, UHC flashed its brawn and versatility at every race in 2014. Sure, UHC didn’t win either the National Racing Calendar or National Criterium Calendar standings, but it finished second in both, grabbing wins and GC podiums at nearly every big domestic or international race it competed in.
Alison Powers won the overall at the Tour Femenino de San Luis in the team’s very first race. Mara Abbott climbed to victory at the Vuelta El Salvador and Tour of the Gila, while Rivera won the best young rider competition at La Course along with dominating the domestic criterium circuit with Barnes and the newly formed “Blue Train.”
Along with her early season success, Alison Powers won national titles in both the road race and time trial in May, with Coryn Rivera locking up the last remaining road title by sprinting to victory at criterium nationals in September.
In a word: dominant.
After years of posting impressive results on the domestic criterium circuit, Team SmartStop brought on riders fit for both stage races and support roles for the 2014 season. The once crit-centric squad went into the year hoping to tackle some of North America’s biggest races, with the ambition of grabbing wins and bolstering their presence in the peloton.
SmartStop’s breakout star in 2014 was Eric Marcotte. At the ripe age of 34, Marcotte took stage wins at the Cascade Cycling Classic, Vuelta a la Independencia Nacional (in the Dominican Republic), and most notably, upset the WorldTour-stacked field at the U.S. national road race championship in May.
Finishing second to Marcotte at nationals was teammate Travis McCabe, who had an equally impressive year, securing the NRC title and grabbing stages at the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic, Nature Valley Grand Prix, Redlands Cycling Classic, Joe Martin Stage Race, and Cascade Cycling Classic.
But it wasn’t only at NRC races where SmartStop shined. Jure Kocjan, formerly of Euskaltel-Euskadi, brought WorldTour experience, wearing the yellow jersey for two days at the Tour of Utah and leading the year’s UCI America Tour standings before finishing third in those rankings. The team won the America Tour classification, besting Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies by a large margin.
SmartStop also saw consistent rides and a number of victories from Zach Bell and Shane Kline, further improving the team’s newfound depth in 2014.
SmartStop won big and won often in 2014. The team had great success throughout the season and hopes for even more in 2015 with the addition of former Astana rider and time trial specialist Evan Huffman, as well as climber Chris Butler.