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Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies announced its final men’s roster for the 2016 season on Wednesday, adding four new riders. Evan Huffman, Emerson Oronte, and Shane Kline all come from Team SmartStop, which folded at the end of 2015, and Adam De Vos was signed from H&R Block. Huffman is an ace time trialist, while Oronte and De Vos are strong climbers. Kline is a field sprinter who rode for the Kelly Benefit Strategies team in 2009.
“I feel really good about joining the team. I expect we will be extremely competitive across the entire season next year, and I’m hoping to be an important part of that,” said Huffman, who has two years of experience in the WorldTour with Astana. “I’d like to get back to some more international racing, so I’m really looking forward to the Europe trip the team has planned for the spring.”
Other high-profile signings for next season include Danny Pate, who leaves Team Sky, and Rob Britton, another SmartStop alum, who won the 2015 Tour of the Gila.
“Every year, we try to make improvements to our team and to our business,” said performance director Jonas Carney. “We’ve come a long way since our humble roots. In the past three seasons, we’ve notched stage wins at the Tour of California and Tour of Utah and podiums at the Tour of Alberta and USA Pro Challenge, four of our most important races. We’ve grown accustomed to cracking the top-10 overall at those events in the last three seasons, but finishing second overall in Utah this year was an eye-opener, and now we will aim even higher. These new signings are designed to take our ability at races with a lot of climbing and big time trials to the next level, and make winning the overall at those a real possibility.”
The team retains the core of its sprinting unit, centered around Eric Young, a two-time Tour of Utah stage winner. Tom Soladay, Pierrick Naud, Curtis White, and Brad Huff all return to form the lead-out train. All-rounders Jesse Anthony, Will Routley, and Bjørn Selander will return, along with time trial specialist Tom Zirbel, who was the 2013 U.S. TT champ.
“It was great to retain the core of our program; it’s a group of riders that has worked together to win some huge races in the past few years,” said Carney. “With the amount of new talent we’ve added, our lead-out guys and sprinters should be able to focus even more on winning races together, and our all-rounders will have extra firepower to help them get in a position to get a result on race day.”
2016 Optum men’s roster
Jesse Anthony, Newbury Park, California
Rob Britton, Victoria, British Columbia
Adam de Vos, Victoria, British Columbia
Brad Huff, Springfield, Missouri
Evan Huffman, El Dorado Hills, California
Shane Kline, Bally, Pennsylvania
Pierrick Naud, Amos, Quebec
Emerson Oronte, Boulder, Colorado
Danny Pate, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Will Routley, Abbotsford, British Columbia
Bjørn Selander, Hudson, Wisconsin
Thomas Soladay, Glendale, California
Curtis White, Delanson, New York
Eric Young, Boulder, Colorado
Tom Zirbel, Boulder, Colorado