Team Announces 2016 Women’s Roster: Builds on Blue Train Core, Bolsters with International Power
After a successful second season in the professional peloton with strong performances around the world, the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team is pleased to announce a talented 2016 women’s roster, ready to embark on the upcoming racing season. Throughout the 2015 season, the women of the UnitedHealthcare Blue Train showed strength and tactical prowess in races of all formats, from high-profile criterium victories across the United States, to wins in the major American stage races, and strong results at international events and the World Championships. General Manager Mike Tamayo reflected on the season, “When I look back at the season, I see wins from many different riders, in many different types of a races. As a director and general manager, a record like that shows depth, adaptability, and most of all, effective teamwork. That makes us at the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team immensely proud of these riders and this program.”
Many core riders from the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team’s debut season return, such as team captain Lauren Tamayo and powerful track and road racer Cari Higgins. Talented young rider Coryn Rivera returns to the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Blue Train after taking numerous sprint victories throughout 2015, including a stage three win and the sprinter’s green jersey at the USA Pro Challenge, earning a spot on the 2015 World Championship road race roster where she impressed the world with an outstanding late race performance. Katie Hall will return after her breakthrough season with the team, taking 2nd overall the Tour of the Gila, followed by a high-profile win in the opening stage of the Women’s Amgen Tour of California. Rushlee Buchanan will continue to lend her massive contributions to the women’s lead out train, with a victory of her own in the books on day 3 of the 2015 Gateway Cup. 2015 additions Abby Mickey, Laura Brown, and Linda Villumsen return for the 2016 after a great season in which Mickey took the Best Young Rider jersey at the Women’s USA Pro Challenge in her home state of Colorado, and Villumsen closed out the year by winning the Individual Time Trial World Championship in Richmond, Virginia. Villumsen will proudly wear the coveted Word Champion’s rainbow jersey throughout 2016 in time trial events with the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team.
The team welcomes five new riders for the 2016 season: Annie Ewart, Diana Carolina Peñuela, Hayley Simmonds, Iris Slappendel, and Para-athlete Shawn Morelli. All-rounder and former 2-time junior Canadian National champion Annie Ewart joins the team from Optum Pro Cycling, having taken a stunning breakaway victory on stage 2 at the Tour of the Gila, as well as a win at the Dominguez Hills Criterium in 2015. Ewart said, “I could not be happier to join the UnitedHealthcare Pro cycling Team for the 2016 season. I hope to contribute and build on the incredible success this team has had the last few seasons.” Current British national time trial champion Hayley Simmonds brings more time trial power to the team for 2016, commenting, “I am incredibly excited about starting my professional cycling career with UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team. The team has a very strong roster and an extremely professional set-up which I think will provide me with the perfect environment in which to develop further as I make the move to full-time rider.”
Former Dutch national champion (2014) and veteran racer Iris Slappendel brings years of high-level racing to the program for 2016, with wins at Thuringen Rundfahrt (2010) and Route de France (2014) on her impressive resume. Slappendel added, “After being a professional for so many years I was looking for a different setting and new challenges, but also for a professional team that could offer me a well-rounded race program. I have found this in the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, where I can race the most important races on the calendar in Europe, and I have the chance to discover more of the races in the USA.” Colombian rider Diana Carolina Peñuela join the 2016 roster, with a victory at the 2015 Criterium Manizales Fair, a 2015 World Championship selection, and top-10 results in races across North America. The enthusiastic and well-rounded rider commented, “Riding for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team is a dream come true for me. Ever since my first international race, I wanted to be a part of the blue train. It means finally becoming a professional. My objective is to contribute my talent and athletic condition, while I learn and improve every day.” American Shawn Morelli, 2014 UCI Para-Cycling Road Race World Champion and 2015 World Championship Para-cycling Track Pursuit Bronze Medalist, will complete the the program for 2016, proudly wearing the blue and white of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team on the road and track at the absolute highest levels of para-cycling competition. Morelli commented, “It’s an honor as a Para-athlete to be included as a member of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, I am looking forward to the road ahead.”
Team manager and sporting director Rachel Heal spoke of the program’s goals for 2016, “After a strong showing in 2015, we’re looking to continue the success and carry this momentum into 2016. We will increase our schedule in Europe for 2016, but with two Women’s World Tour races (The Women’s Amgen Tour of California and Philadelphia Cycling Classic) and several more UCI races in the US, we will be looking to perform well on home soil throughout the year.” Speaking of the new members for the 2016 season, Heal added, “the signing of Iris Slappendel to the team is an important one as we look to increase our presence in European racing. She brings a wealth of experience and strength to the squad from many years racing with some of the biggest European teams. British national time trial champion Hayley Simmonds is a relative newcomer to road racing, but she has proven her strength in time trials this year and we’re looking forward to bringing that strength to the team and helping her develop. Annie Ewart has proved her skill as a great domestique this year, and her stage win after crashing at Tour of the Gila showed grit and determination, proving she has what it takes to win. Shawn Morelli is another extremely talented and hard-working new rider for the team, we look forward to supporting her efforts throughout the year. Diana Peñuela brings a turn of speed that will see her fit well into the blue train in a variety of settings. The addition of these talented five riders to our already strong group of returners puts us in a great position to build on our success moving into the 2016 season.”