It may not be the wealthiest program and the team may just be an outside shot for the overall title, but the Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth squad will hold the distinction of fielding the only completely American roster at this year’s Amgen Tour of California.
In releasing its official roster for the 2011 Tour of California, the team noted that “the Green Machine will rely solely on the red white and blue for America’s most prestigious stage race.”
Toeing the line for Kelly Benefit Stategies on Sunday will be an aggressive and talented team that includes Jesse Anthony, Andy Bajadali, Dan Bowman, Alex Candelario, Mike Creed, Jason Donald, and Reid Mumford.
“As easy and cost effective as it would be to hire riders from overseas, our philosophy has always been that we are a North American team and we want to support and develop North American athletes,” said performance director Jonas Carney. “I think it says something that we are the only team in the ATOC with eight riders from the United States. Hopefully people will notice that and cheer for our team.”
It will be the third time the team has competed in the Amgen Tour of California, the third time with an all-North American roster, but the first time through with 100 percent U.S. athletes.
“There is no doubt that we are fielding our strongest and most experienced roster yet,” Carney added. “It’s going to be an incredibly difficult race, against the some of the best racers in the world. We are honored to compete in such a prestigious event.”
The team donned the red King of the Mountains jersey for several days in the 2010 edition of the race, using tactics and heart to counter the power and depth of the ProTour ranks. performance manager Jake Erker sees 2011 unfolding in a similar fashion.
“In 2010 we showed our aggressive racing style by being in stage-long breakaways and netting a jersey for a few days,” Erker said. “Our intent in 2011 is the same; we will look for opportunities to get up the road and make the Pro Tour teams react.”
KBS-OptumHealth spent the first quarter of 2011 competing in UCI stage races and other events around the globe, running two squads simultaneously for the majority of the early season. The team competed in several top events including the UCI 2.2 Tour de Taiwan and UCI 2.2 Tour de Bretagne, giving the team, Erker said “an intense and varied block of stage racing, an ideal one for the rigors of the Amgen Tour of California.”
“Our schedule for the first couple months was tough and it included a lot of international travel,” said Carney. “It’s tough to get results when the team is split, but it’s important that our athletes get the preparation they need for races like California, the USPRO Championships, and Philly. We want to be competitive in the big races, and we make the sacrifices necessary to get there.”
Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth for the Amgen Tour of California
• Jesse Anthony
• Andy Bajadali
• Dan Bowman
• Alex Candelario
• Mike Creed
• Jason Donald
• Mike Friedman
• Reid Mumford