A month that is usually associated with oppressive heat and sweltering temperatures.
But for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, August 2012 will officially go on record as the hottest and best month in the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team’s 10-year history.
(Instant Classic: Rory Sutherland Raises His Arms in the Epic Stage 6 Win at the 2012 USA Pro Challenge, Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder, CO)
As the U.S. based Pro Continental squad closed out a successful Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah earlier this month and wrapped up the 2012 USA Pro Challenge and the 2012 Tour of Portugal last weekend, it proved that this Division II Team has the mettle to go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the sport, be successful, and win. The manner in which the Blue Train executed throughout August was nothing short of electrifying. Each member of the 18-man unit, plus its directors and staff, played an integral role in the Team’s ability to surge to victory, nab spots on the podium, and secure top 10 finishes in major stage racing in Utah, Portugal and Colorado.
For the millions who watched on TV or live at the races, read about it in the cycling trades and mainstream media, or followed online and through social media; there was no doubt this Team’s overall performance was anything less than outstanding. Team UnitedHealthcare’s aggressive “podium or bust” mantra resulted in the boys grabbing an overall race haul of six stage wins, three Team Classification wins, numerous top 10’s, and multiple special classification jerseys (i.e., KOM, Most Aggressive Rider, Best Utah Rider, and Sprint Leader). All accomplished in the high altitudes of Utah, Colorado and Portugal, the explosive month of results left the Team standing on top of the world – literally.
“Podium or Bust” – Resolve and Determination Yield Big Results for Team UHC
General Manager and Team Director, Mike Tamayo, led his charges into the month with one singular focus – execution. The decision to go after stage wins in the high altitudes of the profile races of the summer was one the unit embraced and adopted the “podium or bust” mentality.
(Sutherland Got the August Blue Train Party Rolling in Utah, Winning Stage 1 and the Leader’s Jersey on Day One)
In Utah, one of the most highly decorated riders in North America and this year’s Tour de Beauce and SRAM Tour of the Gila winner, Rory Sutherland showed once again why he is always a force to be reckoned with in the peloton. His captivating Stage 1 dash to the finish and triumphant reaction was just the beginning of what lay ahead for the Team, kicking off the month with a bang at “America’s Toughest Stage Race,” and helped to invigorate a group that would go on to capture several stages and jerseys over the next three weeks.
Jake Keough was the next to grab a top spot on the podium for the highly confident bunch with his Stage 4 win in Utah, the biggest win of the young rocket man’s career to date. As the 25 year-old sprinter from New England blasted past the competition en route to victory over Garmin-Sharp superstar, Tyler Farrar, Keough’s burst of energy coming through the line truly showcased the passion with which these riders were racing.
Teammate Jeff Louder would walk away from Tour of Utah having earned the crown Miller Lite’s “Best Utah Rider.” The Salt Lake City native pushed tirelessly to help keep his Team in the thick of it and on the podium presentation stage every night throughout the six-stage event. In addition, the gutsy racing from Phil Deignan, Ben Day, Chris Jones, Robert Förster, and Hilton Clarke, kept the squad firing on all cylinders and inspired their Teammates across the Atlantic in Portugal to replicate the Team’s accomplishments in similar fashion.
If Sutherland, Keough, Louder and the boys racing in Utah were the catalyst of a Team on a mission to produce podium topping results, then Jay Thomson (Stage 1) (who went on a mountain romp to victory and subsequently three days in the yellow jersey), Jason McCartney (Stage 6) andeach rider nabbing dramatic stage wins at the Tour of Portugal.
Under the guidance of Team Director, Hendrik Redant, both Thomson and McCartney managed to pull off a pair of superhuman solo efforts off the front that stayed away to the finish line in Stages 1 and 6 respectively, while Reus also fought hard to hold the competition at bay en route to his Stage 7 victory. In addition, Boy van Poppel and Marc de Maar also scored top 10 results in Portugal while Jonny Clarke, Davide Frattini and Brad White, worked hard to keep the unit strong and put their Teammates in position to win.
Yet the hard-charging riders still had one more amazing feat to show the world and the proverbial “best was yet to come,” as one of the most spectacular victories in Team history lay in waiting half a world away in Colorado.
The Greatest Victory in Team History: Stage 6 of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge
With just two stages remaining in Portugal and Colorado, the entire team had exhausted itself and made the necessary sacrifices and contributions and could have walked away at that point with their heads held high.
But that would not be the case. There was one more rabbit to pull out of the hat.
Rory Sutherland’s emphatic Stage 6 Saturday afternoon solo effort to the top of Flagstaff Mountain secured one of the greatest wins in Team History on August 25 and put an exclamation point on the work the Team has put in over the past month. The awe-inspiring ascent in Boulder was performed in front of 350,000 people, the largest crowd ever assembled for a cycling event in the U.S., along with the millions watching live on NBC. It also happens to be the city where Sutherland currently resides with his family.The win enabled the Team to bookend the start and end of the month with victories, the first being Stage 1 on August 7 at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, and the last being the penultimate stage in Colorado on August 25.
(Team UHC Powers Through the Rockies in the 2012 USA Pro Challenge)
Leadership: Team Directors Setting the Tone
General Manager and Team Director, Mike Tamayo, summed up the Team’s mindset and approach to its August racing calendar, saying, “Altitude and attitude. That’s what we faced in August and how we approached it. We made a decision we were going to tackle the high altitude tests of Utah, Colorado and Portugal with a tenacity and confidence that would be second to none. We were going for stage wins and we were going to leave everything we had on the course, in the mountains, chasing down breaks, sprint for wins, solo off the front, and do whatever it takes to cross that line first. Just execute as close to perfection as you can and good things will happen.”
And good things did happen.
The “go hard or go home,” “win stages or bust” clearly paid off for the riders.
The experience, work and sacrifice provided by veterans Jeff Louder, Ben Day, Karl Menzies, and Chris Jones, pulled the Team through at critical points of the USA Pro Challenge and proved invaluable. Sprint captain Robert Förster’s leadership, selflessness and guidance helped pave the way for Keough to win in Utah and continue his ascent as one of the sport’s fastest riders. Phil Deignan was instrumental in Utah and newcomer Danny Summerhill (who stepped in for Deignan who had to fly to Ireland to tend to family matters), factored in as well in Colorado.
(Jake Keough Atop the Podium, Stage 4, 2012 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah)
Team Director, Hendrik Redant, who guided the Team’s effort at the grueling but prestigious Tour of Portugal, was over the moon as he reflected on the August to remember.
“Wow!” Redant began. “It is hard to capture in words how well this Team has come together this year. This beginning of this year was just hard and lots of bad luck racing in Belgium, etc. But that has not changed the boys’ approach. The guys that wear this jersey are fearless. They are selfless. They work so hard for each other and they never quit! They believe they will be successful every time they get on the bike and take to the start line. They listen and buy into the race strategy in our team meetings, and they leave everything they have out there. They suffer, they punish themselves and they go hard. You can’t ask for anything more from professional athletes. And they delivered here in Portugal.”
“This was a big month,” Tamayo said. “Morale and confidence are still high and that’s what we want to see. This is a good group and they should be proud.”
(General Manager/Team Director, Mike Tamayo, Was All Smiles in August)
Three major races on two continents producing six stage wins, five days in yellow, multiple top 5 and top 10 finishes, several special jersey classifications, and four team classification victories.
I think it’s safe to say we are all proud of these guys.
TEAM UNITEDHEALTHCARE ROSTER FOR THE 2012 USA PRO CHALLENGE (August 20-26):
Rory Sutherland (USA)
Jeff Louder (USA)
Robert Förster (GER)
Jake Keough (USA)
Chris Jones (USA)
Ben Day (AUS)
Karl Menzies (AUS)
Danny Summerhill (USA)
TEAM UNITEDHEALTHCARE ROSTER FOR THE 2012 VOLTA A PORTUGAL (August 15-26):
Jonny Clarke (AUS)
Marc de Maar (CUR)
Davide Frattini (ITA)
Jason McCartney (USA)
Kai Reus (NED)
Jay Thomson (RSA)
Boy van Poppel (NED)
Brad White (USA)
Hilton Clarke (AUS)
Team Director: Hendrik Redant (BEL)
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