Sunday, July 12, 2015

Giro della Valle d'Aosta: Young USA team looking to shine in Italy

USA National Team director Mike Sayers was optimistic when discussing the team's chances in the overall classification in the upcoming Giro della Valle d'Aosta. "I think it is not out of the picture that we have a rider in the top 5 GC. I will be disappointed with no one in the top 10."

It was strong words from a director that focuses mainly on getting U23 riders experience in bigger races but the American team has the potential. Sayers has mainly run with a young crew this year with only a couple of 4th year U23s and, admittedly, the team has been a bit inconsistent at times. If the National Team goes to a race that also invites Axeon or BMC Development, that means the team could potentially be lining up with a roster full of riders from '95 or '96. Constantly relying on young riders isn't always going to lead to sunshine and roses. As any good director knows, putting too much pressure on developing riders will lead to burnout. So while inconsistency might be an issue, the young Americans have certainly had their bright moments with Colin Joyce finishing 3rd overall in Costa Vicentina and 7th in La Cote Picarde while 1st year Will Barta finished 8th overall in the Tour de Bretagne.

Another issue that Sayers brings up is that the riders are far away from home. "I think we, exactly like the Aussies, fight a huge uphill battle being away from our homes for weeks and months at a time," says Sayers. "Instead, I focus on teaching guys how to become as comfortable as possible in Europe, a place that is not their home, where I hope that one day they can be full-time pros. These kids fight and I will fight for them."

Starting in Aosta for the USA will be Keegan Swirbul, Chris Putt, Justin Oien, Geoffrey Curran and Will Barta. Swirbul, if he has good legs and is healthy, will be a strong GC contender in this type of terrain. Curran and Barta are good climbers that are strong time trialists so they should be able to get a rhythm on these big climbs and pound away. Putt finished well in last year's Ronde de l'Isard and seemed to be on form in the U23 National RR when he put in some late attacks. Oien can ride on a lot of different terrain and should be a consummate teammate.

"We are going there to learn, so being aggressive will be a requirement and taking some risks is fine for me.  Any result an American can get there, including the BMC guys (TJ Eisenhart and Alexey Vermeulen -ed), is a victory for me and my program." Sayers said. "It is going to be a tough week, but a beautiful week."

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