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“This will be the first real big bite out of the season we’ve had,” sport director Pat McCarty told VeloNews. “With the calendar getting squeezed, it’s our first big stage race in Europe this season. The guys are hungry to see the front of the race.”
Catalunya is one of the first major dates on Rally Cycling’s ambitious European calendar for 2021. The team has built out its service course in Girona, and brings riders over in waves. Others, such as King and Rosskopf, are already based in Europe.
“We’ll be looking for opportunities to challenge for stage podiums and classification jerseys,” said McCarty, now in his eighth season with the team. “Either of those would be astronomical in such a high-caliber race.”
Ben King and Joey Rosskopf add WorldTour depth to roster
King and Rosskopf join Rally Cycling as the men’s team steps up its European ambitions in 2021. Following last year’s COVID season, the team is ready to race.
“Bringing those guys on moves us in the direction we want to go,” McCarty said in a phone call. “They’re really strong riders and they bring a wealth of experience. As a team, we’re trying to step up our game in terms of performance.”
Both of the WorldTour veterans are part of the next step in the team’s progression that will include a larger European footprint.
Rosskopf joins after racing six years in the WorldTour, while King’s arrival is a homecoming of sorts. He started racing in 2008 with Kelly Benefit Strategies in what was the team’s second year, and King spent 10 seasons in the WorldTour capped by two stage wins in the 2018 Vuelta a España.
Also read: Rally Cycling’s Felt arsenal for 2021
King and Rosskopf will be hunting for stages during the weeklong WorldTour race that sees such peloton luminaries as Chris Froome (Israel Start-Up Nation), Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) lining up among a Tour de France-caliber start list.
“With the lineup at the race, it’s hard to be super-ambitious with the results, but we’re pretty optimistic,” McCarty said. “The guys are in a good place. Everyone is riding pretty good, and everyone is excited to race.”
In another sign of the team’s larger ambitions in Europe, it signed its first rider beyond its traditional North American orbit that always included American or Canadian riders. For 2021, Dutch rider Arvid de Kleijn, 27, is the team’s first full-time European rider in team history.
The team’s women’s squad, which has been training in Moab, Utah, will make its European debut next month at Flèche Wallonne Féminine and Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes in the Ardennes.
Both squads will be traveling back and forth between Europe and North America, chasing dates on the COVID-impacted calendars on either continent.
“COVID has really hit the race calendar,” McCarty said. “The North American calendar has been more impacted, and some riders didn’t see a lot of racing last year. At least right now in Europe there is racing, so we want to take full advantage, and get our riders some race days.”
Targeting breakaways in first big European test
The Volta, which loops around Spain’s Catalunya region, features a nice mix of stages for the team to try its luck in breakaways.
Also read: Rally Cycling rounds out women’s roster
Rosskopf and Gavin Mannion, also making his season debut, will hit out in the stage 2 time trial Tuesday, and Mannion will see where he might end up on GC.
“The Volta always has a super-hard parcours, it’s a climbing heavy race,” Rosskopf said. “There will be deep climbing talent in terms of the riders other teams bring but that’s okay, we’ve got the talent to do something special. It’s definitely a race you want to show up super-prepared for.”
As the opening stage of the #VoltaCatalunya100 approaches live 📺 coverage, catch up on what to expect from our roster as well as how to watch them in action 👇#GetReadyForTomorrowhttps://t.co/0XhnWxxG4a
— Human Powered Health Cycling (@hphcycling) March 22, 2021
The team will be lining up against some of its alumni riders, including Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation), Brandon McNulty (UAE-Emirates), and Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), whom all raced in Rally team colors before joining their new teams.
“It’s really important for all of us to keep showing what we can do on the world stage at WorldTour races whenever we get the chance,” Rosskopf said. “It’s one of the only races we do all year where I’m familiar with the roads beforehand. I’ve been living in Girona for a few years, so this is as close as it gets to a home race for me.”
The team lost some of its early-season dates due to a wave of postponements, but it’s seeing its calendar fill out as such races as Ruta del Sol and the Volta ao Algarve are being rescheduled on the calendar in April and May.
A date circled on the calendar later this season is the Tour de Suisse in June. With much of the North American calendar gutted by COVID-19, the team expects to stay busy racing in Europe later in the season in Portugal, Denmark, and Spain.
“We’re hoping to see a full season of racing this year in Europe,” McCarty said. “The Volta is stacked here, and there’s a strong group of stage racers this week. Everyone is excited to race.”
Rally Cycling for Volta a Catalunya (March 22-28)