Road

Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies starts season with wins on two continents

Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies' Woods claims his first international win in Portugal, while Zwizanski takes the title in Chico Stage Race

Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies started its 2015 season with convincing wins in both California and Portugal.

Across the pond, Canadian Mike Woods won Sunday’s Clássica Internacional Loulé, soloing away from the field to claim his first professional victory. And just 10 days prior, Woods notched a fifth-place result in the fifth stage of Volta ao Algarve, which was won by Team Sky’s Richie Porte.

“Racing at Algarve definitely had an impact on my performance today,” Woods said on Sunday. “Throughout that race, I really felt like I was riding at a level that I have never ridden at before, and this gave me a big confidence boost. Combine that with a solid recovery week and our team pre-riding all of the course and we felt like we had a shot at winning.”

With 12km to go, Woods used a short hill as a launchpad for his winning move. He attacked twice on the kicker and was clear after his second move. There was a lull in the field, and the chase became fragmented, helping Woods open the gap he needed.

“The team was phenomenal today, even though we had some guys that are really sick and some who were not able to start. When Guillaume told me to attack with 10km to go in the race, I had the confidence to do it, and a solid sense of where I needed to launch.”

Meanwhile in California, Scott Zwizanski won the overall title at the Chico Stage Race, a four-stage, three-day event, which finished on Sunday.

“My form may be good, but this was certainly a team win,” Zwizanski said. “We worked together well and took advantage of every opportunity that was given to us to win the race together. The behind-the scenes guys like [Tom] Soladay and [Bjorn] Selander might not be on the podium, but their hard work and tactical savvy made everything possible.”

In the end, the Optum squad stood together on the final podium, having won the team prize, a feat that was also achieved by the European squad at Loulé that same day.

Although Alison Tetrick didn’t have the same firepower for support in Chico — she was the only Optum rider in the race — she still won Saturday’s road race stage and finished fourth on GC, despite a mechanical that spoiled her ambitions for the overall title in the final-day time trial.

“Alison was particularly strong and enthusiastic with her new teammates at camp,” Optum women’s performance director Patrick McCarty said. “It is absolutely no surprise to me she smashed the competition at her first race after this camp. Unfortunately, she had some bad luck in the TT that derailed her chances at winning the overall, but that certainly won’t be happening at most races, so we are very happy with her result.”