A scan down the opposition also reveals several top names with deep links to the Rally Cycling franchise.
Some of today’s biggest WorldTour stars, including Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Brandon McNulty (UAE-Team Emirates), all came through the long-running U.S. program.
“It’s a point of pride for us,” Rally Cycling sport director Pat McCarty told VeloNews. “It says a lot about our program that those guys have had such great success in the WorldTour.”
Today, the team races at the “ProTeam” level in the elite men’s peloton and features a strong European program, with a service course in Spain and a full European calendar.
The team’s DNA dates back to its founding in 2007 as Kelly Benefit Strategies, and has steadily grown into one of the top North American programs.
Over the years, dozens of top riders have come through the rosters. Three former team members racing this week in Catalunya stand out.
Woods raced with the team in 2015 as Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies in what was a pivotal season for the Canadian. A handful of victories with the team and second overall at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah helped propel him to the WorldTour in 2016 with Cannondale.
McNulty also used the team as a catapult into the WorldTour, racing with the team from 2017-2019 in three seasons capped by two U23 world time trial podiums, and a stage win and overall victory at the Giro di Sicilia in 2019.
McNulty — who notched the best grand tour debut with 15th at the 2020 Giro d’Italia by a U.S. rider since 2001 — was so comfortable on Rally Cycling that he passed on a WorldTour deal in 2019 to race one more season with the team.
And then there’s Kuss, who’s emerged as one of the top climbers in the elite men’s peloton.
Kuss was barely out of college when he joined the team midway through 2016, and it was obvious very quickly the kid had something special. Kuss won a stage in only his second stage race, at Tour de Beauce in 2016, and hit a bunch of podiums in 2017 that landed him the deal with Jumbo-Visma.
“I was with Sepp on a few of his European trips with us, and you could see there was a lot there,” McCarty said. “When he was full-time with us, you could really see him go to the next level. He was so impressive at Utah in his second year with us.”
This week, McCarty’s riders a Rally Cycling are racing against some of their former teammates at the Volta a Catalunya.
“We’ve worked with a lot of these young North American guys over the years,” McCarty said. “It’s satisfying to see them go on to have big careers and that we’ve helped them make the most of their talent and abilities.”
Also read: Why Ben King is joining Rally Cycling
And who knows, maybe in the future, some of these riders might come back. That’s certainly the case with King, who raced with the franchise in 2008 and returned in 2021 as one of its leaders.
“Look at Ben. He was with us at Kelly Benefits, and now he’s back,” McCarty said. “Maybe there will be some more of these ‘full circles’ as we continue to grow, and maybe see some of these guys come back. It’s cool to see.”