North America’s newly minted Continental pro team, Rally UHC has found early success in the start of its first European campaign of 2019 at the Tour of Oman.
The orange train was upgraded to Continental status this year following an impressive 2018 season, built off the back of years of steady growth. With the new designation comes increased opportunities to take part in more high profile events. This week, the men’s team is split between the Tour of Oman and the Vuelta a Andalucia.
At Oman, Canadian Rob Britton was back in his role as super-domestique. Working for designated team leader Brandon McNulty, Britton helped deliver the American to a 14th place finish on Tour of Oman’s fifth and Queen stage. More significantly, this launched McNulty into ninth overall with one stage remaining in the race. The young American finished second in the races youth competition.
The pivotal moment came on the slopes of Al Jabal Al Akhdar (Green Mountain), on Wednesday’s fifth and penultimate stage. The team worked together to ensure Britton and McNulty arrived at the base of the climb in good position.
While new Rally UHC’s continental status is new, its team members don’t lack in experience. Britton, in particular, has experience both as a supporting rider and as team leader. Most recently, he played a crucial role in setting up Michael Wood’s incredible third place finish at 2018 UCI road world championships.
Britton parlayed that experience into strong support for McNulty, pacing the second year pro up the double-digit grades of Green Mountain while the race exploded around them. “With it being so steep and the weather being quite hot, it was better for us not to follow the initial surges and keep a steady pace,” said McNulty after the race. “We knew the majority of the guys following the surges would blow up. The plan worked super well and I was able to gradually build speed instead of fading.”
The stage was won by Alexey Lutsenko, who cemented his impressive defense of last years Tour of Oman win. The Astana rider isn’t the only rider to top the podium in the distinctive Astana blue recently. The Kazakhstan team landed a combined eight wins in eight days of racing across three continents.
With McNulty in the top 10 going into the final day of racing, Rally UHC sent Adam de Vos off the front early in Stage 6 to help protect the teams GC position. The young Canadian spent most of the day riding with a small breakaway group. The quartet would eventually be caught within 5 km of the finish. Behind, the remainder of the Rally UHC team worked hard to return McNulty to the front after the American was caught up in a large crash that took Alexander Kristoff out of the race.
At Veulta a Andalucia, American Colin Joyce was the teams top finisher on the first day of racing. Rally UHC’s newest, and most high profile signing, Svein Tuft is representing the team there, along with Robin Carpenter, Gavin Mannion, Canada’s Ryan Anderson and more. Tuft, who postponed retirement to join Rally UHC after leaving Mitchelton-Scott at the end of 2018, has made a career of specializing in the domestic role. His efforts in the service of greater team goals were recently immortalized in the film Wonderful Losers.