First there was Toyota Pro Cycling. Then came UnitedHealthcare and Hincapie, later known as Holowesko-Citadel.
Elevate-KHS sure looked like the next dominant team in the Sunny King Criterium men’s pro race Saturday.
Eric Young and Alfredo Rodriguez gave Elevate a 1-2 finish to cap a final breakaway that included five of its members, all five in front in points in the final laps in downtown Anniston.
The new “blue train,” a moniker associated with United during its years atop the field but with a Columbia-blue look Saturday, was a runaway victor.
“The sport, in the U.S., has changed a lot over the last couple of years, a huge changeup sort of in the team makeup,” Young said. “It’s a shame, but it allows some younger, up-and-coming guys. It just changes the scenario. …
“I think this team has done a good job rolling with the punches. Today, we find ourselves in the front and on the top.”
As the name suggests, Elevate-KHS is the 3-year-old melding of two teams. The team finished second to United on USA Cycling’s Pro Road Tour last year.
“We dominated some criteriums last year,” Elevate-KHS director Heath Bleckgrove said. “We know we have a very good criterium squad, but putting it into reality is another thing.”
Key additions like Young help. The 30-year-old Geneva, Ill., native is a 10-year professional who came over from Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies this year. He won the U.S. National Criterium Championships in 2011 and 2013, the first one while riding with Bissell.
“He’s been proven one of the fastest guys in America, time and time again, so we were really excited to welcome him in,” Bleckgrove said.
Young and teammate Gavin Hoover have eyes toward riding in the Olympics, on the track, and saw Elevate-KHS as a move toward that goal.
For now, the goal is to dominate, and Elevate-KHS did just that Saturday. A group of its riders took off with 2007 Sunny King winner Frank Travieso with 44 laps to go and dominated from there. Travieso finished third.
“I got comfortable the last two laps, because I knew the right tempo,” Travieso said. “The only thing I needed to do was follow the sprinter’s wheel. I worked too hard. I was cramping.”
Elevate-KHS had that effect on people.
Others tried to pass. Texas Roadhouse racer Daniel Summerhill went left and passed the lead pack momentarily, while charging up 11th Street late in the race. The speed it took to do it put him too fast into the first turn, and his bike slid out from under him, ending his night.
It just wasn’t to be, not when Elevate-KHS had five in the lead pack.
“We were just really ready to race the whole night,” Young said. “We wanted to be really well represented in all of the moves, and all of our guys did that. We raced awesome.”