Jamis-Sutter Home, last year's number-one ranked professional cycling team in the US national racing calendar, is looking to repeat its 2009 overall victory with an equally strong team for 2010.
The UCI-Continental squad reunited for the first time this year at a 12-day training camp that concluded at the Tour de San Luis, a seven-day stage race held in San Luis, Argentina.
"We came a week earlier and the idea was to try to get the guys together, to get to know each other," said Directuer Sportif Sebastian Alexandre. "This year half the team is new and it was important for us to have a good training camp. Even though a lot of them know each other it is important to start to train together and spend time together."
The 13-man roster includes returning brothers Alejandro and Anibal Borrajo, Tyler Wren, Andy Guptill, Guido Palma and Luis Amaran. New recruits include Under 23 US National Time Trial Champion Nick Frey, notable sprinter Frank Travieso and cyclo-cross specialist Jamey Driscoll along with young talents Demis Aleman, Tucker Brown and Jackie Simes.
The team lost its main sprinter Lucas Sebastian Haedo to the ProTour team Saxo Bank. However, he was replaced with the highly decorated Ivan Dominguez who last year split his season between the ProTour team Fuji-Servetto and US-based Rock Racing.
"I'm very happy with this team and I think that it will continue to follow the same mentality, style of racing and team work as it was when I built the team three years ago," Alexandre said. "When I picked the riders I was considering those specific things, to look for riders who can grow together with the other guys."
San Luis offers Jamis-Sutter Home warm weather and tough racing
Jamis-Sutter Home supported nine riders at the opening training camp that took place in San Luis, Argentina on January 13-18. The camp concluded with the Tour de San Luis, a UCI sanctioned 2.1 seven-day stage race held between January 18-24.
"The camp was a success, everyone had a good time and I believe I have a good group of people again," Alexandre said. "We have done great in the last two years and there is no reason to change that. We want to go the races and win the races."
The team has taken advantage of the southern hemisphere's summer weather and mountainous terrain in the Province of San Luis for the past three years. Furthermore, the location well-suited the team's long history of hiring an international array of Spanish speaking riders.
This year there are four Argentineans, Anibal and Alejandro Borrajo, Guido Palma and Demis Aleman and three Cubans, Luis Amaran along with Frank Travieso and Ivan Dominguez who have both recently received their American citizenship.
Upon arrival, the men were outfitted with new Jamis Xenith SL team issued bikes courtesy of new title sponsor Jamis Bicycles. The color scheme is a pin-sharp looking palliate of black, red and white. Veteran, Tyler Wren is the only original rider left from the team's previous seven years under former title sponsor Colavita USA, traditionally sported the colors green, white and red along with the occasional yellow.
"I felt a little strange or almost disloyal to not wearing the Colavita colors because I've been wearing them for seven years," Wren said. "I was with them for so long that's all I have in my closet. This is new and I think Jamis did a great job. It's not often that the bike sponsor is the title sponsor too so it's cool that they totally coordinated the bike with the kit. The whole package is not mismatched at all. It looks good."
President of Jamis Bicycles, Carine Joannou took over as the team's title financial and equipment sponsor for the 2010 season. The New Jersey-based bicycle manufacture replaced long-time title sponsor Colavita USA, who stepped down into a presenting sponsorship role.
"Jamis has been great," Alexandre said. "They trust the team a they liked the team that they had for the last two years, even though they only sponsored us with the bikes. They liked our ideas so they came on board to continue what we have done, the support has been great. Carine is very supportive and Sutter Home, we are very happy with their support."
The men trained for five days prior to the start of the Tour de San Luis. Five days might seem like a short amount of time for the riders to gain any valuable fitness but according to Wren, gaining fitness was not the main priority.
"The most important things for this time of year was that we just got our bikes so we had to get on them," Wren said. "It was important to get our equipment sorted out, SRAM is new for us, our shoes and pedals were new too so we had to get used to those. The other important thing was to get to know all the guys and see how everyone was feeling on the bike. We only needed four or five days to do that so it was perfect."
Crashes and injuries mar Jamis-Sutter Home's Tour de San Luis
The Jamis-Sutter Home team lined up against some of the world's best teams in San Luis, but came away with mixed results behind overall winner Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo).
The team lost its sprinter Alejandro Borrajo who hit a car during a training ride one week before the start of the race. He suffered a concussion and other minor injuries. According to Alexandre, Borrajo was in good condition and the team was looking to him for stage podium and even a victory. A second loss occurred when its second sprinter Ivan Dominguez crashed during stage three and sprained his wrist.
As the only US-based team participating, Anibal Borrajo provided his squad with its best results on paper with double sixth places in stage one and stage three along with an eleventh place in stage seven.
"I think if you look at the results between this year and last year we might not have done so well," Wren said. "But, last year we came in hot and fit because the Tour of California was right after. This year we had less ambition and form to get results. We have our focus set for down the road in March and beyond. We didn't expect to be in great form in January, not like the other guys in the race from South America and Europe. We met our goals so we were happy with it."
Defending the NRC title
Since it was expected that USA Cycling would enforce a radio ban in the US this year for all events except the top level races, Jamis-Sutter Home used the Tour de San Luis as an opportunity to experience racing without race radios, even though UCI 2.1 events permit race radios.
"We practiced going without the radios," Wren said. "Most of our races in the US will be without radios this year. We practiced racing without radios for a couple of the days in San Luis, since we will have to go without radios soon anyway. We had to come back to the cars in order to talk to Sebastian. If you need to talk to a teammate you have to go through the whole group to find them. It was good to get a little practice because it was very different."
The team will next compete in the Rutas de America in Uruguay between February 16-21 before kicking off its North American debut at the San Dimas Stage race and the Redlands Bicycle Classic, both in California in March.
The squad will again focus on events on the NRC series and UCI sanctioned races inside the US with a tentative schedule that includes Athens Twilight, Tour of the Gila, Joe Martin Stage Race, Tour of Somerville, Philadelphia International Championships, Richmond Twilight, Clarendon Cup, Air Force Classic, Nature Valley Grand Prix, Manhattan Beach, Fitchburg Longsjo Classic, Boise Twilight, Cascade Cycling Classic, Tour of Elk Grove, Presbyterian Hospital, Tour de New York, USPRO Criterium Championships, Chris Thater, Univest Grand Prix and USPRO Road Championships.
The team is hoping for invitations to the Tour of California and Tour of Missouri.
"Being the number one team in the US was a goal for Colavita in the years past," Alexandre said. "I think it is important for Jamis too. For me, it is important to just go and try to win as many races as we can and then the NRC will follow that.
"We do not have to chase the NRC from the first race," he added. "Of course, most of the big races are NRC or UCI so we will be at all of those. If it happens, we will go for it but it is not our first priority. Our first priority is to win races and we have an all around team to do that."
This year, the team has scheduled a series of races outside of North America to include Tour de San Luis, Rutas de America and Vuelta Mexico Telmex.
"Jamis is an international company," Alexandre said. "Before the team was focused on the American season but with Jamis involved we will try to race a little more outside of the US than what we used to do. This year we will have more international races and we might add another international race, that is something that will change from the past."