People don’t realize cycling is a team sport. One rider can’t hope to succeed without the support of their teammates. Rally UHC Cycling prides itself on their chemistry and camaraderie, not just among the riders, but the staff too.
A professional cycling team spends a lot of time together, sometimes several months without returning home. For a team based in North America but which races internationally, Rally UHC Cycling spend more time as a unit than most. This cultivates a unique atmosphere across the whole outfit and fosters a valuable work ethic which is demonstrated on the road. As performance director Jonas Carney says, “Our success starts and ends with us getting along as a team.”
The management works really hard to pick a group who are going to work together from the directors down to the race mechanics. The riders and support staff of Rally UHC Cycling are friends on and off the bike which is not something you always see in our sport, especially in the bigger teams.
Soigneur Rachel Voyles explains why she loves being part of the team: “You get to do a really cool job traveling around and helping these guys out. But also with some really cool people that are more than just co-workers, they’re friends and family.”
It’s the role of Voyles and her fellow soigneurs to support the riders’ physical as well as mental health. Professional riders ask a lot of their ‘sympathetic system’ – which stimulates adrenalin and the fight or flight impulse – for several hours at a time on a race day, and for several days in a row on a stage race. This gives Rachel and her colleagues a very important job to do in managing the team’s recovery. Once the race is over and the riders get back to the hotel, it’s all go for the support staff.
If the riders are relaxed and feel supported by the staff around them, then they don’t have to worry about anything but riding their bikes. “Environment is,” says Rachel Voyles, “a part of sports performance that gets forgotten.” Not on this team. Everyone looks out for each other, on and off the bike, at races and at home.
The 2019 Tour of California comes a little while after a long spring campaign in Europe so the organization is just coming off a rare rest and recovery period back home. The only WorldTour race in the US is always a big show so the break should serve the team well going into the biggest race on their calendar.
For many of these riders, their first Tour of California was also the first time they ever saw a film crew on a race, and the first time they found themselves rolling around with the biggest teams in the international peloton. This would make anyone anxious and these guys have got to race through those nerves. Age and experience help though, and as Gavin Mannion says, “At the end of the day, it’s still just a bike race.”
It’s the fight of their lives, but as a team they’re more than ready for it.