Episode 1 - Training to Win

Rally UHC Cycling Men’s and Women’s teams are days away from their biggest race of the season.

Not every cycling team gets to ride at the Tour de France. Those in the lower levels of the sport focus their seasons on other key milestones. For USA-based Rally UHC Cycling, that means the Amgen Tour of California, the biggest race in North America.

As a Pro Continental team, Rally UHC Cycling competes in the second tier of professional bike racing. The Amgen Tour of California is a top tier WorldTour race. It’s the big leagues, the same level as the Tour de France, Paris–Roubaix and the Giro d’Italia.

But what exactly is the WorldTour, and how do you prepare for it?

The WorldTour draws the biggest cycling races around the globe into one season-long competition. The 18 biggest and best-funded teams – known as WorldTeams – automatically have the right to enter top events, while teams like Rally UHC Cycling have to be invited. When an invite comes their way, the team grabs it with both hands. It’s the ultimate opportunity to show what they can do while the cycling world watches.

That, in a nutshell, is why the Amgen Tour of California is such a big deal for Rally UHC Cycling. Or as rider, Kyle Murphy, puts it, “It’s kinda like the holy grail of American bike races.”

There are so many dynamics at play that it’s hard to keep track. For the team, it’s their biggest opportunity to deliver value to the sponsors. Whether that’s by throwing riders into every breakaway, taking a classification jersey for a day, or grabbing a victory out from under the noses of the WorldTour teams – the more exposure they can get in this week, the better they’re able to repay their sponsors’ faith.

Rally UHC Cycling is one of few teams that fields both men’s and women’s squads. The women’s side of the organization is already at Women’s WorldTour level, and has enjoyed success at the race before. For them, it’s about coming back and delivering on the expectation.

Men or women, for Rally UHC Cycling’s team of young guns, this is a chance to play in the big leagues – to test their mettle.

From the cyclists who compete to the small army of support staff, everyone has to be at their best. That means mechanics preparing the bikes to each rider’s exact specification, soigneurs ensuring every individual has the optimal recovery, and directors judging every tactical decision to perfection. When you combine all these factors, it’s not so much a game of inches as a game of milliseconds, where every decision right or wrong has an impact on results.

Pulling all these threads together is the battle for the general classification, the overall competition for the Amgen yellow leader’s jersey. Riders are ranked according to who has the fastest combined time for all seven stages of the race. A rider might finish dead last on a stage, but if they’ve spent the first three hours keeping their leader safe from crashes and well supplied with food and water, their last place can be considered a victory. That’s why cycling is the ultimate sport of self-sacrifice, a team sport where an individual wins.

In Brandon McNulty, the men have a real candidate for the overall podium. The Arizonan came 7th last year and has grown as a rider in the intervening 12 months. The role of the other members of the squad will be to support him, to ensure he gets the best result. Likewise, in the women’s race last year, Emma White notched two top-three finishes and will be trying as hard as she can to go one better and make it across the line first. Her efforts were enough to secure her the green jersey for best sprinter last year, so expectations are high for the team in this year’s race.