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Inside Rally UHC 2019 Team Launch

A weekend with one of the biggest domestic teams in America.

For many riders and teams, the end of the 2018 season was marked with uncertainty. Riders were scrambling to find contracts, teams were looking for new sponsors and even USA Cycling has had new leadership. Rally Cycling however, is stronger than ever as they prepare for the upcoming season. As the team lost some key veterans, but they have added valuable new legs to the squad as well. The team launch took place in Calabasas California. The festivities began at Pedalers Fork, an organic restaurant, coffee shop and bicycle boutique. 

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The evening began with riders, staff, sponsors and guests enjoying appetizers, beverages and live music at Pedalers Fork. During that time, it's a chance for riders to mingle with key people in the Rally organization some of whom pay their salary or support them with products and gear. Also it is a way to gauge the enormity of the squad. This is perhaps the only time of the year where the totality of the team is represented. The magnitude could not be understated as Pedalers Fork, a closed venue for the event was packed with so many people. It is a testament to the teams sponsors and roots going back more than a decade.

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While the event was large in scope and scale, the atmosphere was quite welcoming. A nice touch was having each guest write their names on stickers in a convention hall style manner. After happy hour was a buffet dinner that featured a large assortment of salads, artisanal pizza, roasted root vegetables, mac and cheese, brisket, pulled pork along with sesame chicken wings. Most people let the riders eat first which meant that everyone else had to wait a bit for the serving dishes to be refilled by the wait staff. I found myself going back for seconds on food and drinks as the menu had some of the freshest and well prepared food around and a drink menu that would rival most breweries. Between meals I was able to get some insights about the upcoming season from some of the riders. After dinner, the riders were whisked away as they put on their new team kits to prepare for the rider presentations.

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The rider presentations were held on the outdoor patio and luckily under heat lamps and covering from the light rain. First the sponsors from Rally and UHC respectively addressed the crowd about their commitment to health and supporting cycling. After that the announcers, in their best game show host impressions announced the lineup for the 2019 squad. Each rider walked out to cheers as both the mens and women’s teams were presented simultaneously. After some truly hilarious introductions things got competitive right away with a mens team versus women's team trivia battle. Questions had ranged from boy bands to World War II. topics. After a few missed questions from the mens side, the women emerged victorious as they were ecstatic claiming the winning cup and held it proudly. 

While the weather in Southern California is usually predictable, many poeple were glued to their weather apps on their devices concerned about the wet conditions that were likely on Sunday. In the morning the pavement was black from the rain and it was cloudy but no rain. The riders and staff assembled at the parking lot of the Anza hotel and the preperations for the thirty mile out and back ride on Mulholland were underway. There were an array of the new Felt Fr disc team bikes and Felt bicycles for guests as well. We cruised the service area and checked out some of the new equipment the riders will be using throughout the season. 

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Just ask the skies started to clear, and the sun broke through, the riders assembled for some final photos and instructions of the route. I came across Kelly Catlin. A track and road rider who broker her arm while on the velodrome. She had a unique cast as it looked like it was something from the future. It gave her the ability to give her assisted braking as servos in the unit gave her a bit of extra braking power in her right hand. As high tech as it was, it came with the drawbacks of not being able to wear a warmer with it and more importantly not UCI legal. A small price to pay to heal bone while allowing her to train on the bike. 

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It was a rolling ride through some of the most beautiful landscape of the Calabassas area. The area is still very much recovering from the recent wildfires, and the air still smelled of the burnt char. The roads, while starting to dry had a fair amount of dirt and mud through the corners where they rain turned the burnt landscape into sludge. The thirty mile route featured two groups of varying abilities and were sagged with support from Beeline Bikes and a few photographers. 

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Once the ride stopped and turn around at a road closure of a washed out bridge, we headed back to the hotel and the team dispersed as quickly as they had assembled. The women’s team went directly to Los Angeles as they flew immediately to Australia for the Women’s Tour Down Under. The men’s team headed to Oxnard for more training as their season begins later. Upon arrival, bags were packed, bikes were cleaned and put in their cases and staff members were coordinating all logistics items big and small. As the team readies for the 2019 season, they are in the unique place of having the support and talent that some teams can only dream of. This of course makes them one of the favorites but Rally UHC is looking to rise to any challenge. 

*Stay tuned throughout the season as we bring you more stories from Rally UHC.