Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies adds another marquee veteran to its 2016 roster today, in the form of Canadian stage racing specialist Rob Britton. Britton is the second high-profile signing of the offseason after the announcement last month that Team Sky’s Danny Pate would join the team. Both riders will be under contract through 2017.
Both Britton (31) and Pate (36) have built careers on a rare skillset – exceptional climbing ability fused with consistent, fast finishes in the time trial. It’s the recipe needed for success in the highest levels of the sport.
“One of our weaknesses over the last couple of years has been depth at big races like the Tour of California, USA Pro Challenge, and Tour of Utah,” said Performance Director Jonas Carney. “We have riders who are very capable of getting results at those events, but they have not always had the help they need when going up against the biggest teams in the world. We know Danny and Rob can get results at events of that caliber, but they are also great teammates and tacticians. More importantly, they are two of the friendliest, hardest working guys I know, and will add to the culture of our team tremendously.”
Fresh Start for Britton After Breakthrough Season
Rob Britton comes to the team as one of the most coveted free agents of the offseason. His ‘15 season with now defunct Team SmartStop was his best yet – after winning the overall at the mountainous Tour of the Gila, Britton delivered the performance of his career at Colorado’s USA Pro Challenge, finishing third overall, thanks in large part to a 2nd place finish in stage five’s Breckenridge Time Trial. His efforts on that day, against some of the world’s best on a demanding, uphill course, surprised even Britton.
“2015 was an incredible year and I’m honestly still processing what was accomplished,” he said. “That being said, the baseline has changed now. Colorado changed everything, as it showed me I can compete against some of the best time trialists around. I honestly haven’t sat down and penned out goals for ’16, but I promise it will be big. There’s a bike race in Rio that I’d like to attend.”
Hinted Olympic aspirations aside, Britton will play a key role within Optum p/b KBS as it attempts to raise the bar in North America’s biggest races. Carney is eager to see the Canadian put his talents on display with his new team.
“Rob is an extremely well-rounded rider. He climbs really well, and his time trial has improved tremendously over the last two years. Being able to out-time trial almost all of the other climbers he raced against this year netted him some big results.”
As an added bonus, Britton will race alongside some of his home country’s best cyclists for the first time in his career.
“When I look at the roster for next year and the Canadians we have, I couldn’t be happier. While I’ve been racing against these guys for almost a decade now, I’ve never actually had the chance to race with them outside of a national team setting. We’re all friends and have often talked about how great it would be if we were on the same side. I guess now we’ll find out – and so will everyone else!”
Return to Domestic Circuit Means Return to Spotlight for Pate
Since winning the Under-23 World Championship Time Trial in 2001, Danny Pate has grown into one of the pro peloton’s most reliable and versatile riders. In 2008, the Colorado native made the leap to the WorldTour with the Garmin program and competed in his first Grand Tour, helping the team win the opening team time trial at the Giro d’Italia. Later that year, he completed his first Tour de France, finishing 3rd in stage 15. In 2009, he raised his profile on the international stage with top overall finishes at the Critérium International (3rd overall) and Tour Méditerranéen (6th overall). In 2011, Pate joined the HTC Highroad team before transferring to Team Sky in 2012, where he established himself as one of the team’s most reliable domestiques. He played critical support roles at the 2012 Vuelta a España and 2013 Giro d’Italia, and in 2014 finished 11th in the closing time trial of the Tour de France. He will be the first rider in team history to have completed all three Grand Tours.
“Danny has spent the last 8 years in the WorldTour, working for some of the biggest names in cycling,” said Carney. “He hasn’t had many chances to get a result for himself, so he’s flown under the radar a bit. He is very well-rounded and capable of big results if he puts his mind to it. He can climb, time trial, and handles his bike as well as most field sprinters. Danny is a serious GC threat for us, but will also play a major role in helping a someone like Eric Young, Ryan Anderson, or Britton win a big race.”
For Carney, it is also a chance to bring a trusted friend and former teammate into the fold – the pair rode together on the Prime Alliance team in the early oughts. The signing is a characteristic one for Carney and his team, built solely on North American riders and a culture of accountability and teamwork.
“Danny and I have been friends since we raced together on Prime Alliance from 2001 to 2003. He was an amazing teammate then, and later developed into one of the best domestiques in the World Tour. It was great to watch him racing at the highest level. Having known him for almost 15 years, I am absolutely sure that he will fit in with our group. We’ve always felt that a positive environment and camaraderie between the athletes is of the utmost importance. I know that Danny will not only be a great teammate on the bike, but he will also quickly become part of our family.”
Rob Britton Career Highlights
3rd Overall – 2015 USA Pro Challenge
2nd – 2015 USA Pro Challenge Stage 5
1st Overall – 2015 Tour of the Gila
2nd Overall – 2014 Vuelta Independencia Nacional
2nd Overall – 2014 Tour de Beauce
3rd – 2014 USA Pro Chalenge Stage 5
3rd Overall – 2014 Tour of the Gila
10th Overall – 2015 Amgen Tour of California
Danny Pate Career Highlights
1st – 2015 Tour de Romandie Stage 1 (TTT)
1st – 2013 Giro d’Italia Stage 2 (TTT)
1st, King of the Mountains Competition – 2011 Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal
3rd Overall – 2009 Critérium International
6th Overall – 2009 Tour Méditerranéen
3rd – 2008 Tour de France Stage 15
Bronze Medal – 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 Elite U.S. National Road Race Championships
Silver Medal – 2007 U.S. National Time Trial Championships
1st – 2007 Tour of Missouri Stage 5
Gold Medal – 2001 Under-23 World Time Trial Championships
Gold Medal – 1998 Under-23 U.S. National Road Race Championship