International travel and grueling competition are synonymous with professional cycling. This season alone, Rally UHC Cycling has competed in eight countries across four continents. On April 24th, the team will add a ninth country to its passport in grand fashion when it lines up for the 83rd edition of Belgium’s La Flèche Wallonne.
In what is arguably the greatest challenge in program history, La Flèche Wallonne marks the team’s first European participation in a Belgian Classic.
Part of the torturous and hilly Ardennes Classics week, La Flèche Wallonne covers 195 km and features three ascents of the infamous Mur de Huy, a 1,300 meter wall with a 9.3% average gradient.
One of the team’s protected riders is 20 year old Brandon McNulty who earlier this month captured his first professional stage and GC victory at the Giro di Sicilia. McNulty has shown the ability to not only go the distance but to also produce the raw power required to compete at this level.
Racing against the worlds best on one of the most demanding courses of the season is motivating for the Arizona native.
“Getting an opportunity to race any of the Classics at such a young age is inspiring so I’m very excited,” said McNulty. “This is an absolutely huge opportunity for the team. I know we’ll all race our hearts out.”
McNulty’s condition for “The Wallonne Arrow” was in doubt during the opening stage of Portugal’s GP Beiras last weekend. McNulty suffered from a cold following the Giro di Sicilia and required additional rest. He retired from the race after the first stage, returning to Girona, Spain to recover and prepare for Flèche.
“I caught a cold the day after Sicily,” said McNulty. “I felt healthy after a few days but on stage one in Portugal, it was clear that my body still wasn’t ready. There’s a fine line in cycling between battling through a “bad day” and digging yourself into a deeper hole. It was clear to me that it was the latter.
Despite McNulty’s young age, he is one of the team’s protected riders along with teammate Colin Joyce and has a practical approach to a race of this magnitude.
“I think a reasonable and realistic target for me is to finish in the front group,” said McNulty. “If I’m on an exceptionally good day maybe I’ll be fighting for a spot in the top 20.”
Performance director Jonas Carney has been with the team since its inception and understands the significance of the team’s participation in La Flèche Wallonne. Carney admits the team has nothing to lose.
“The level of competition at Flèche is incredibly high and our riders have proven, race after race, that they belong,” said Carney. “You can trust that we’ll show up prepared and ready to crush it.”
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La Flèche Wallonne roster
Adam de Vos