Tales from the peloton, March 23, 2004
Feeling the (sugar) rush
After considerable off-season reshuffling and the end of a number of teams from the US pro peloton, Jelly Belly has returned to take advantage of a large pool of available riders. Drawing from this pool, the team has picked up several heavy hitters, including Aussie Caleb Manion, former team-mates Alex Candelario and Jonas Carney, and Ernie Lechuga. Lechuga is returning to the team after missing a year to overcome testicular cancer. Also new to the team are U23 riders Jeremy Powers and Paul Ellis.
Joining the riders are the highly valued title sponsors; with sponsorship going through troubling times, it's encouraging to see companies like Jelly Belly and Aramark continue their commitment to the team and riders. Jelly Belly Event Marketing Manager, Kerry Brennan-Novak, spoke of Jelly Belly's excitement in supporting the team in 2004, and why they continue to invest in cycling.
"We've upped our sponsorship this year and are really excited to see the team do well. We know that they are right on the edge of a big performance high, and we use the team as a vehicle for lots of things," says Brennan-Novak.
"We get great brand exposure; if you've seen the San Francisco (T-Mobile International) race for example, there are thousands of people on the sides of the street screaming for Jelly Belly and that's great for us. We also use the team to travel throughout the country to introduce or promote new products for us, so it works on a lot of levels."
Also stepping up their commitment level to the team this year is Aramark. Aramark is a corporate outsourcing company who provides things such as uniforms, food services, public safety equipment and custodial services, to name a few. They have seen what the team has done in years past and this year they move into the presenting sponsor position.
With the main sponsors and a budget increase in place, team director Danny Van Haute, along with team captain Kirk Albers, went about building the team. Having the foundation in place with riders like two-time Olympic team member Mariano Friedick and Aussie Ben Brooks, they looked to add more diversity in the ranks.
"We never really had a true sprinter in the past, and with Alex and Jonas we definitely have that depth now, and that gives us much more [variation] in terms of tactics in races. Jonas won 13 races last year and at one time or another, has won basically every criterium you can name," explains Albers.
With the team and sponsors now firmly in place, new goals have been identified for this year. Says Albers confidently, "We've sort of picked a schedule of races for everyone to maximize our national calendar points. This is the first year that we've done that; before we sort of tried to focus on races that got a lot of coverage, but this year, we're putting more emphasis on results. I think we'll be a much more competitive team than in years past."
With the beginning of the season already behind them, the team came out of the gates fast. At the Valley of the Sun Stage Race Mariano, Friedick took the overall win while getting a first and second in two of the three stages. Two weeks later at the Tour of Temecula, Friedick again rode hard to get second on GC and won a stage. Sprinter extraordinaire Jonas Carney garnered a second place stage win and placed eighth overall. And this past weekend in Merced, CA at the McLane Pacific, Carney got another second place in the crit, while teammate Ben Brooks came in third in the road race. That same weekend on the right-hand side of the US in Florida, Corey Steinbrecher got a second place at the Festival of Speed Circuit Race after a fifth in the previous day's criterium.
Just like those little packets of tasty jelly beans, or the new chocolate JBz, the Jelly Belly presented by Aramark Cycling Team seems to have come up with a good mix. Dedicated sponsors, newfound depth within the team and the right people to put it all together, are sure to make this the most successful year to date for the team.