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Newly upgraded Pro-Continental squad UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis has set its 17-man roster for the 2011 season and manager Mike Tamayo is going all in for the general classification at the Amgen Tour of California.
“Our goal is to win the overall at Tour of California,” Tamayo told VeloNews. “We’re doing everything we can to be in the best position for California.”
UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis 2011 roster
Boy Van Poppel
That preparation includes an extensive European racing schedule in the spring. While he would not talk specific events due to ongoing invitation talks, Tamayo confirmed the team would race primarily in Europe in the build-up to the 2.HC Amgen tour in May. The squad will return stateside in April to contest the Tour of the Gila, which makes its debut on the UCI calendar two weeks before California.
According to Tamayo, the team plans to contest four-day to one-week stage races in Europe and will not pursue invitations to the one-day classics. “It’s just no good for us to take a roster of eight guys,” he said. “Two finish, one breaks a collarbone and five get nothing out of it.”
The team will make its European headquarters in Lucca, Italy, and will announce a European-based director soon. In the U.S., longtime mechanic Eric Greene will move from the back seat to take the wheel as U.S. director.
New hires for the squad include veteran sprinter Robert Forster from Milram, all-rounder Cameron Meier from Garmin-Transitions and climber Charles Wegelius from Silence-Lotto. The ProTour recruits, and new additions Boy Van Poppel (Rabobank Continental), Davide Frattini and Chris Jones (Team Type 1) and Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies), will bolster a mix of young and veteran returning riders.
Rory Sutherland is back as the team’s leader on and off the bike. The Aussie finished fifth overall at the Tour of California in 2010 and should lead the charge again next season. Sutherland had been closely involved with the team’s recruiting and equipment selection and will make his return to Europe five seasons after leaving the Rabobank Continental program.
Assuming they make the ATOC squad, Wegelius, Meier and Frattini will be of particular help as the California route sees its first true mountaintop finish among a number of climbing stages. Forster and Van Poppel, who won a stage of the 2008 Tour of Missouri, would provide new fire power in the group finishes.
Returning riders include Hilton Clarke, who comes off a career year, strongman Karl Menzies, always aggressive Brad White and youngsters Morgan Schmitt and Max Jenkins. “Our roster is a good mix of riders,” said Tamayo. “It’s entirely based on California.”
Next season marks the most significant journey across the Atlantic for Momentum Sports, the management team behind the UHC program. Tamayo said the team’s mantra for the year is “Onward with conviction.” Marketing materials for the squad list a 2011 UCI grand tour start as an objective, but Tamayo maintained that California and the new Quiznos Pro Challenge are the major focus.
On a more personal level, however, Tamayo is looking to take his tightly organized management style to the top level of the sport. “For the first year in Europe, infrastructure is key,” said Tamayo, likening his squad to a first-year business. “In the past we’ve gone over with a rental car and Styrofoam coolers. We set a new standard for how to run teams domestically and I want to take that global.”
The team will open 2011 with an early February training camp in Thousand Oaks, California, home of tour sponsor Amgen.