It’s no secret the fast-growing USA Pro Challenge bike race draws big talent from around the world. This year’s field of more than 120 riders is spread across 16 teams and is deeper than ever, featuring top-notch talent, Tour de France victors and inspirational figures. Here’s the team rundown and who to watch.
» BMC Racing Team is a U.S.-based team that was founded in 2006 and has seen enormous success in the world circuit and stateside in 2013 at the Tour de California.
» Connondale Pro Cycling is a U.S.-based team that consistently has some of world’s fastest sprinters and has dominated the Pro Challenge in past years.
» RadioShack Leopard Trek is Luxembourg based and has a number of veteran racers and represents a blend of two already-dominated cycling forces — Team Radio Shack and Leopard Trek.
» Sky Procycling of England has been deemed an innovative team in cycling. This could be the team to watch. It used money from Ruppert Murdoch’s SKY company and has revolutionized training and tactics through scientific approaches, leading top racers to the podium repeatedly. Currently, it’s the top-ranked UCI team.
» Team Argos-Shimano of the Netherlands is in its first year as a UCI World Tour team. While this group the new kid on the block, riders have won sporadic stages at events around the world and will look to get in the mix of things at the Pro Challenge.
» Team Garmin-Sharp, of the U.S. has gone from a freshman team to a force to be reckoned with. Garmin-Sharp has risen to the top on the American circuit and produced the 2012 Pro Challenge winner, Christian Vande Velde.
» Team Saxo-Tinkoff of Denmark is managed by former Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis. The team has seen stage racing success around the world and claims the big names of three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Cantador — one of the world’s top riders.
» Champion System Pro Cycling Team of China is Asias’s first Pro Continental team. It is diverse and has riders from 14 countries. It was founded as a cooperation between an American group in New York and a Chinese group.
» UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team of the U.S. is owned by Momentum Sports Group. The team is known as the Blue Train and dominated the U.S. field in 2011 and 2012, taking more than 20 wins in 2011 and the podium more than 60 times, including three sweeps, in 2012.
» Team Novo Nordisk of the U.S. is An inspiration-dominated team. Novo Nordisk aims to educate and empower people who have diabetes. This is its second run in the Pro Challenge.
» Team Colombia The team is supported by the Colombian government. It is tied to a cycling school that works with youngsters in the country. By training in the rugged mountains of Columbia, the team has honed its climbing skills and is expected to turn heads during the mountain portions of this year’s race.
» Bissell Pro Cycling is consistently a top-placing team in the U.S. Bissell has had high-placed riders across the spectrum. Part of that success comes from the attack power — members have been known to breakaway late in races all the way to the podium.
» Bontrager Cycling Team, of the U.S. was created in 2009. The team has made it a mission to build the future of elite riders, largely under team leader Axel Merckx. Bontrager has sent 11 riders to the World Tour, and is watching the success of up-and-coming star Lawson Craddock, who was crowned the best young rider at the Tour of California.
» Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies in the United States. The team was the first-ever freshman group to win the USPRO Criterium Championship and has built on that success from year to year. A diverse field of climbers, sprinters and trialists, the team has grown up fast.
» Jelly Belly presented by KENDA is sponsored by Jelly Belly, the longest running domestic sponsor in cycling, and the team is led by U.S. National Road Race champ Fred Rodriguez.
» Jamis-Hagens Berman presented by Sutter Home of the U.S. is One of the longest-running UCI teams in the country, the skilled group of riders knows how to win and has several Amgen Tour of California stage winners. Plus, Jamis Bicycles, established in 1937, is the largest bike business in the country with original family ownership.
Along with the world’s two top-ranked cyclists, dozens of other local and international superstars will make headlines in the pelaton during this week’s USA Pro Challenge including:
Chris Froome (GBR)
Team: Sky Procycling
Rank: Tour de France champion (2013) after finishing second in the Tour for the two years before; currently the top-ranked cyclist in the world
Peter Sagan (SLO)
Team: Connondale Pro Cycling
Rank: Tour de France sprint jersey winner (2013); No. 2-ranked rider in the world
Fred Rodriguez (U.S.)
Team: Jelly Belly presented by KENDA
Cycling highlights: Four-time US Professional Road Race champion
Hayden Roulsten (NZL)
Cycling highlights: Tour of Southland winner (2006-2008, 2010)
Michael Olsson (SWE)
Team: Team Argos-Shimano
Cycling highlights: Swedish National Road Championship winner (2013)
Michael Schär (SUI)
Team: BMC Racing Team
Cycling highlights: Swiss National Road Race Championship winner (2013)
Christian Vande Velde
Team: Team Garming-Sharp
Cycling highlights: Tour of Missouri (2008) USA Pro Challenge winner (2012)
Tejay van Garderen (U.S.)
Team: BMC Racing Team
Cycling highlights: Raced locally with Fort Collins’ Team Rio Grande Racing (2004-2005), USA Pro Challege 2nd place finisher (2012)
Jens Voigt (GER)
Team: RadioShack Leopard-Trek
Cycling highlights: Tour de France stage wins in 2001, 2006, Giro d’Italia stage win (2008)
Joe Dombrowski (U.S)
Team: Sky Procycling
Cycling highlights: Finished 10th at 2012 USA Pro Challenge, dubbed Best Young Rider