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A successful professional cycling team requires not only an exceptional team leader but a dedicated support system. Behind the individual winning the race exists seven or eight other riders who, if the team is successful, are equally invested in the outcome. Behind the riders operate countless other individuals contributing to the common goal: directors, mechanics, soigneurs, and PR officials. On the surface exists the racers expending themselves on the road, but it wouldn’t happen without the dedication of the entire team organization.
American outfit Rally Pro Cycling is a perfect example of this. The team has been consistently building success upon success since its establishment in 2008. The 2018 season will mark Rally Cycling’s inaugural season as a UCI Pro Continental team, and the organization appears poised to make an impact in their first season with second-tier status.
On Sunday, Canadian Rob Britton of Rally took the biggest win of his career at the 2017 Tour of Utah. The 32-year old’s overall victory signals yet another result affirming Rally as well-deserving of their status upgrade.
The team’s overall victory at Utah sits atop an already successful 2017 season. Team results include UCI stage wins at the Tour of the Gila, the Amgen Tour of California, the Tour de Beauce, the Cascade Classic, the Joe Martin Stage Race, and the Tour of Utah, as well as a Canadian national championship and an American U23 national championship.
Perhaps most importantly, the team has clinched overall victories at the Tour of the Gila, with Evan Huffman, and now the Tour of Utah, with Britton — arguably America’s two hardest stage races.
Britton stepped into the yellow jersey with a commanding win on Stage 3’s time trial up Salt Lake City’s Big Cottonwood Canyon. Over the next four days, his Rally teammates rode at the front and put Britton in position to defend his lead.
“This group of guys has been together for every race this season,” Britton said. “We know each other very well. We’ve all ridden for each other in one way or another. We’re really tight knit. I have a lot of confidence in them and I think they have a lot of confidence in me. I was very grateful to have such a fantastic team around me because without them I wouldn’t be where I am.”
Rally’s commanding victory almost slipped through their fingers on Saturday’s Stage 6, however.
After a hectic descent off the Category 1 American Fork Canyon, the team lost organization and allowed a breakaway to roll up the road onto the flats preceding the final HC ascent of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Within the breakaway were GC contenders Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing) and TJ Eisenhart (Holowesko-Citadel).
Rally’s calculated domestique Emerson Oronte described the situation and the team’s subsequent response.
“Rob [Britton] probably didn’t panic, but for us guys on the team we probably did for a moment, yeah,” he said. “I think once things got organized and we assessed the situation with a level head, everyone felt good about it. It’s a strong team and despite the fact that there was a strong and threatening break up the road, it’s not like we were just flailing at the back. We’ve got plenty of horsepower.”
A team’s response to less-than-ideal situations on the road can show its depth — or lack thereof.
“Things happen on the road and you just have to assess them as they come and then plan and act accordingly,” Oronte said.
Rally’s response ultimately reeled the break in within the first few kilometers of the final ascent of Little Cottonwood Canyon, delivering Britton into a perfect position on the climb. He finished with his GC companions and preserved his margin upon the summit finish at Snowbird resort.
“This win means the world to me,” said Britton. “I have been working toward this my entire career. To pull off a win at the Tour of Utah is huge. I don’t know what I can say about the team; they were perfect. They never missed a beat and took care of me from day one. The team showed they are one of, if not the strongest, squads in North America. I just can’t thank them enough.”
The race concluded with a demanding Stage 7 urban circuit race in Salt Lake City.
CyclingTips had the opportunity to ride in the team car with director Pat McCarty for the majority of the 10-lap race, directly observing Britton’s refined support system.
McCarty described the team’s plan of defense during the final stage. “Stay calm, stay together. It was a crazy race, it was like there were a hundred different scenarios,” he said. “The ones that weren’t great they kept in check. I think we had a few other teams out there helping, but overall the guys rode great. They rode strong, stayed calm, and got the job done.”
McCarty also spoke about the team’s overall victory in the context of their upcoming inaugural Pro Continental season, acknowledging the huge amount of behind-the-scenes work that often goes unnoticed to the outside observer.
“It’s everything,” he said. “We have a lot of people involved making this program what it is. People in the office, people on the road. When we can go to a race and the fans are out and we can do something right, win and be successful, it just builds on everything. It just shows that we’re ready to take the next step. It gives us confidence, there’s no question about it. For us, for the team, for the riders, for the sponsors. We couldn’t ask for more.”
Rally proceeds into their Pro Continental debut next year with high expectations. Based on their performances at California, Gila, and now Utah, they’ll surely be competitive as they continue to learn and grow into the future.
The Larry H.Miller Tour of Utah (2.HC) Salt Lake City → Salt Lake City
BMC Racing Team