'Free Luca' t-shirts help bring Damiani stateside
The men of Kenda Pro Cycling presented by Geargrinder met their new directeur sportif Frankie Andreu at an opening 10-day training camp held in Macon, Georgia, this week. Andreu brings years of racing experience to the young team and has a vested interest in watching it continue to grow in the years to come.
"It's fun going riding with the guys, making out a calendar and figuring out the rider's goals," Andreu told Cyclingnews. "If the program continues to grow which is something that Chad [Thompson] and I both want to happen, then it's something that I will continue to have a lot of interest in. It's a matter of bringing in more sponsors to increase the budget, get more riders and become a more powerful team."
"You want to be able to win races, but I want to get to the point where we can dominate races," he added. "It makes it more fun. The problem is all the other directeurs and managers, we all have the same goal."
Andreu retired from pro bike racing in 2000 after competing in the Tour de France nine times. He raced under the banner of esteemed teams like 7-Eleven, Motorola, Cofidis and US Postal Service. In the more recent past, he has directed US-based teams Toyota-United, ZTeaM and Proman-Hitsquad. Now, he has committed his attention to the fast-growing Kenda Pro Cycling Team.
"I was familiar with Kenda and knew that they wanted to expand," Andreu said. "I was not specifically looking for a team to work with. The timing was right for Chad, he had a good group of guys, everything was clicking, falling into place and it looked like we could really grow this program."
Kenda Pro Cycling has taken on several name changes since its inception in 2005 as the Honey Stinger-Spinergy team. The team is owned by Chad Thompson and managed through Inferno Racing. This year, it will embark on a second season as a UCI-Continental outfit and thus considered relatively young with in the US professional peloton.
"I was excited to be apart of a team and help it grow," Andreu said. "Hopefully, expanding it in the next couple of years, continue to grow and be stronger. Chad is an incredibly hard worker and has that same passion for cycling that I have. He is so enthusiastic that it rubs off on you. We have a great group of riders and so far things are going well."
The squad wraps up its opening training camp this weekend. Thompson and Andreu put together a 10-day program that allowed the riders to get to know one another on the bike. Additional amenities included V02 Max testing at Life Time Fitness, blood work, lactate threshold testing and bike and shoe fits.
"We have all these bells and whistles including riding a lot," Andreu said. "We have a lot things to be able to help the riders. We wanted to give all these things to the rider so that they have the tools to be able to race well."
The team brought in a series of new riders Luca Damiani, Philip Gaimon, Chad Hartley, Jonny Sundt, Nick Waite, Stefano Barberi, Nick Keough, Rob Bush, Jim Stemper and Jonny Parish and Chris Monteleone. Returning riders include Jake Rytlewski, Scottie Weiss and Chad Burdzilauskas.
"Chad already had commitments to a good amount of riders so my hands were tied a little bit with that," Andreu said. "At the same time, I say my hands were tied but they weren't really because they were good riders. We have a good group of sprinters, climbers and guys who can hold their own to compete with the other teams. We are ready to start racing."
One rider that Andreu expressed enthusiasm over was Jonny Sundt, who was a long-time member of the Kelly Benefit Strategies team. Andreu gave Sundt a captain's role to help guide the team in its quest to earn results at the National Racing Calendar.
"He's been around for a long time and he has always shown leadership roles," Andreu said. "He is also aggressive when he races and that's important for our team because our guys love to attack so, he fits into that role."
Italian rider, Luca Damiani made it to the final day of camp after visa troubles prevented him from entering the US. The team sold more than one hundred t-shirts labeled "Free Luca" to help offset the application fees for his P1-Visa.
"He is here, received a warm welcome and fit in immediately," Thompson said. "The confusion over his visa was unfortunate and was due to inexperience on Inferno's behalf on the process. The shirt sales were tremendous and we still need to sell more. Nonetheless, he is here and ready to race."
The team will begin racing at the UCI 2.2 Tour of Taiwan from March 14-20. Andreu admitted that the seven-stage race will be a tough one to take on so early in the season.
"As difficult as that race is, it's our first race and one of our biggest goals," Andreu said. "That's difficult because you don't know how the riders are because they haven't raced yet so that's going to be very challenging."
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