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Louder gives UHC another option in the mountains

2011 Tour of Utah, stage 5
Louder gets a bottle and some instructions from Mike Sayers at the 2011 Tour of Utah. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

Jeff Louder has found a home for the 2012 season, and will join the UnitedHealthcare squad in January. Team manager Mike Tamayo told VeloNews that Louder, who has ridden for BMC Racing since 2008, would offer European savvy and a much-needed hand in the mountains to the second-year Pro Continental team.

“We’re excited to have Jeff back with the team,” said Tamayo. “His advantage is having spent three years with BMC Racing at the ProTour level. He’s improved as a rider. We know we work with him fluidly. Now he’s a better Jeff. Jeff 2.0.”

After signing superstars Philippe Gilbert, Thor Hushovd and Tejay Van Garderen, BMC Racing did not retain Louder, winner of the 2009 Tour of Utah. He rode his home state race in August searching for a job and landed one late in August.

Louder rode with UHC predecessor Healthnet-Maxxis in 2006 and 2007. Tamayo said that the team’s GC leader Rory Sutherland needed more help in the mountains — and more weapons that could go for their own results — moving forward and that Louder fit perfectly in that role. The 33 year old has ridden in support of BMC riders like Karsten Kroon and Cadel Evans in the last two seasons and should see opportunities of his own at UHC.

“We’re making drastic changes,” said Tamayo. “This year (Rory) had three or four guys going into the final climb every time, guys that were there to support him. Now we’ll have three guys that are capable of going after results themselves, so it will open up a lot more options for us.”

Tamayo said that Louder is one of a few pieces he is building around Sutherland this offseason. Dutchman Marc de Maar and a forthcoming signing he called “really big” are other cast members he is assembling for 2012.

“We had our weaknesses this year. The big one was in the mountains Rory would get isolated,” said Tamayo. “The guys we’re bringing in around him will push him. He’ll be even more motivated when things get hard in the mountains with teammates around him.”

Louder was not immediately available for comment.