Algarve, Portugal - Following last week's successful Team training camp and Sponsor Summit in Thousand Oaks, California, and just a couple of week's removed from sprinter Robert Förster's blistering streak of four podiums in the final four stages of Le Tour de Langkawi (including a Stage 8 win), the "Blue Train" from the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team has arrived in Portugal and is ready to begin its European race calendar with the 2011 Volta ao Algarve.
This year marks the 37th edition of the Volta and at the start line for Stage 1 for the first year Pro Continental squad from UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling will be Rory Sutherland, Christian Meier, Charles Wegelius, Robert Förster, Morgan Schmitt, Boy Van Poppel, Brad White, and Jonny Clarke. In its first European test of the year, the Team will square off against 19 of the world's top teams throughout the course of the race's five stages and 708km.
"We are looking forward to this week and gaining the experience racing in the Volta," said General Manager and Directeur Sportif, Mike Tamayo. "So far, the Team's attitude and effort has been outstanding. We experienced some success and saw the guys come together as a unit in January and February while competing at the Tour de San Luis and the Tour of Langkawi. One of our goals is to build on that while competing here in Portugal."
The Volta ao Algarve route is comprised of many small climbs throughout the first four stages, with a decisive summit-finish on the 3rd stage as well as an individual time-trial on the final day. The region is also home to many of Europe's finest beaches and the racing on these low-lying flat areas should prove to be intense. February 16th's Stage 1 will take the peloton across a 158km hilly trek from Estadio Algarve to Albufeira. Weather is expected to be around 51 degrees Fahrenheit with a 60 percent chance of showers.
In late-breaking news, it was just announced that last year's champion, Saxo Bank-Sungard's Alberto Contador (then racing for Astana), would be returning to defend his title.
The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team Roster for 2011 Volta ao Algarve:
Rory Sutherland (AUS)
Christian Meier (CAN)
Charles Wegelius (GBR)
Robert Forster (GER)
Morgan Schmitt (USA)
Boy Van Poppel (NED)
Brad White (USA)
Jonny Clarke (AUS)
Photo: Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us