Near Fillmore, California, Rally UHC Cycling sets up next to an abandoned farm building every year for an intra-team time trial, an old tradition at its winter training camp. The winner’s only prize: bragging rights. Considering Rally UHC’s time trial talents, such as Svein Tuft and Evan Huffman, they are coveted bragging rights.
Despite the veteran firepower in the field, Brandon McNulty, 20, set the fastest mark on Guiberson Road this January. Following a 2018 campaign with promising results but no victories, he hopes a few small improvements will turn near-misses into wins — outside of training camp, and not necessarily on a time trial bike either.
A junior world time trial champion, McNulty is known for his TT talent. But he acquired a taste for a new style of racing in 2018: hilly one-day classics.
Rally UHC scored invites to the Grand Prix of Québec and Montréal last year, giving him an opportunity to try his hand at one-day racing alongside riders like Greg Van Avermaet and Michael Matthews. McNulty finished in the lead group in both events, riding to 16th in the Montréal race.
He says the experience opened his eyes to the wider world of pro cycling, which doesn’t revolve around the pressure to perform in grand tour-type events.
“I definitely learned that I like races like Montréal,” he said. “I kind of realized that I got wrapped up trying to be a super-skinny light climber and it’s not what I am naturally.”
Rally UHC’s performance director Jonas Carney still sees McNulty as being a potential grand tour contender down the road but said that his versatility shouldn’t be underestimated.
“He’s a really well-rounded kid for a climber/time trialist,” Carney said. “He’s got some pretty good skills and he’s a pretty punchy rider.”
McNulty may have more opportunities to shine on varied terrain in 2019. Rally UHC has been invited to La Flèche Walonne, a climber-friendly spring classic on April 24 in Belgium. The team is also hoping to return to the Canadian WorldTour races in the fall.
To prepare for these events as well as stage races, McNulty is working hard to become a more durable and versatile rider going into his third year with Rally UHC, now on a one-year contract. He wants to maintain the kind of form he had at last year’s Amgen Tour of California for more than just a few days. He learned a lot about his limits in 2018, particularly at the Tour de l’Avenir. Two days after a near-stage win, he punctured early on in a short but tough mountain stage and spent the rest of the afternoon chasing the pack, ultimately losing nearly five minutes.
“I learned how far I would push myself because I remember how hard I was going just to try to get back [to the peloton],” he said. “I was like, ‘How am I still going? How am I moving?’”
McNulty is hoping to build on that this year. He has seen positive signs so far in training and he is motivated by his near-misses last season.
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