Early season preview: Team doubles up in South America, Middle East

Vuelta a San Juan and Saudi Tour to kickoff 2020 season

7 months ago by Tom Soladay

For the first time in program history, the men’s team has split into two separate groups to prepare for the upcoming season. 

In Southern California, six riders trained in Oxnard to prepare for Argentina’s Vuelta a San Juan from January 26 – February 2 and Tour Colombia 2.1 from February 11-16. In Europe, nine riders fought through the freezing rain in Granada, Spain ahead of the inaugural Saudi Tour from February 4-8. 

Sunny California brings out all the smiles.

The team’s rapid ascension through the Pro Continental (now UCI ProTeam) ranks has allowed for some advanced logistics. 

“We now have enough staff and infrastructure that splitting camps to facilitate better training is possible,” said team director Pat McCarty. “It’s about the training benefits, but also cutting down on travel time and reducing fatigue.”

The Saudi team was scheduled to head straight to the Tour of Oman (February 11-16) but news reports indicate the event will not take place due to the recent death of Sultan Qaboos. The Oman Ministry of Tourism has canceled public events during a period of mourning including this year’s edition of the race. 

Granada crew prepares for Saudi Tour.

Laying a foundation for success

With new recruits Nate Brown, Stephen Bassett, and Nickolas Zukowsky joining for 2020, it was especially important to start building trust, camaraderie, and teamwork amongst the roster. An off-season mountain biking camp in Sedona, Arizona last November went a long way in accomplishing those goals.

These new guys are extremely talented and capable but we need to make sure they are fully integrated into our program and pointed in the right direction,” said McCarty. “For Nate, who’s been on a WorldTour team for years, it’s more of a question of how he will transition from a worker to being a leader and results-getter. For Stephen and Nick, it will be about providing the right schedule for them to develop into European racing.”

Nate Brown riding along the Pacific Coast Highway in early January.

During the 2019 season, the team transitioned into racing more in Europe and the flights back and forth took its toll on the riders. As a result, several riders are expected to settle themselves into a home base in Europe. The preferred option for many was Girona, Spain, where the team’s service course is located.

We’ve encouraged the riders to branch out and try what works best for them,” said McCarty. “I think with the strong cycling community that exists in Girona, it will be the natural choice for many. When you visit there, experience the community, warm weather, and training roads, you see the reasons why it is so popular.”

Coming off a season that included victories at the Giro di Sicilia, Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic, Tour de Beauce, and Canadian Nationals, the team looks to raise its level once again.

We need to raise our level of efficacy in European racing,” said McCarty. “That’s our goal for the 2020 season. Build a foundation of consistent results that will ultimately set us up to properly chase UCI points in the future.”

The season starts at the Vuelta a San Juan on January 26th and runs through February 2nd. Following the race, the team heads directly to Colombia to start acclimatizing for the Tour Colombia 2.1, a race that never drops below 8,000 ft in elevation.

View the full early season racing calendar here.