A trimmed-down Bissell Pro Cycling Team will focus on stage racing for 2012 with a roster that director Omer Kem believes will provide
multiple options for stepping onto GC podiums and repeating as the top team on USA Cycling's National Race Calendar.
The UCI Continental Team, which is entering its fifth year with Bissell Homecare as the title sponsor, will once again focus on NRC
events and the UCI stage races but with a squad that has been cut from 15 to 11 riders. Not returning for 2012 are Rob Britton, Andy
Jacques-Maynes, Shane Kline, Paul Mach, Jay Thomson, Kyle Wamsley and David Williams. New for 2012 will be former U23 riders Chris Barton from BMC and Carter Jones from the Trek-Livestrong Development Team.
“I really wanted to have a more focused team,” Kem said. “And I think that meant being a little bit smaller. We had 15 riders last year, and
it's just not a big enough schedule, just racing domestically, to warrant that many riders.”
USA Cycling's plan to pull criteriums from the NRC and create a separate series with the National Criterium Calendar also helped drive
the personnel decisions. Kem said the team will hit some races on the NCC schedule to gain the experience necessary to defend Eric Young's USPro citerium jersey, but the main focus will always be the stages races.
“We proved that we can race a crit,” Kem said. “We've won the US crit championship two years in a row. But I don't think crits have ever
really been a priority. And this just kind of reaffirms that for us, that we want to be the best stage racing team in the country with the
NRC stage races and the big UCI tours.”
Bissell hopes to develop a stage race attack from multiple quarters led by an experienced core group of riders who can “captain” the team on the road, Kem said.
“I've got the guys I trust to make decisions on the road because we don't have race radios,” he said. “I few have to make those
split-second decisions. Frank Pipp is number one, but really he shares that role with Chris Baldwin, Jeremy Vennell and Ben Jacques-Maynes, the guys who have shown they deserve that spot.”
Behind the four road captains, Bissell has a group of young riders who Kem believes will have their own moments in the spotlight this season.
“I've got my captains,” Kem said. “I've got those four guys I named as being kind of the elder riders, but my other seven guys, all these
guys know that I believe in them, and I think that they can all step up and win races next year. I think the future is these younger guys, and that's really where I shaped the team for 2012.”
Kem said the multifaceted attack Bissell hopes to develop may also be the only way to unseat RealCyclist's Francisco Mancebo as the top domestic stage racer. Mancebo won all the NRC stage races in 2011 except for the Joe Martin Stage Race, which Bissell's Pipp won.
“Racing against a guy like Mancebo, really what I learned last year is that you have to have options,” Kem said. “The only NRC stage race he lost last year, we won because I had four different cards to play going into the last day. If you only have one card to play, or even
two cards to play, you're not going to beat him. You need at least three, and you hope you have five, so four is pretty good.”
The team will kick off the 2012 season with a training camp in Santa Rosa, California from Feb. 25 to March 4, ending with the four-day
Merco Cycling Classic stage race that starts on March 1.
“The race allows a nine-man roster per team, so we can race quite a few of the guys and see where they're at going into the start of the
year,” Kem said.
Bissell will pick things up again at the traditional start of the U.S. season at San Dimas Stage Race, then on to the NRC-opening Redlands Bicycle Classic before heading east for the Tour of the Battenkill one-day classic.
Bissell Pro Cycling 2012:
Andy Baker (USA)
Chris Baldwin (USA)
Chris Barton (USA)
Patrick Bevin (NZL)
Andrew Dahleheim (USA)
Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA)
Carter Jones (USA)
Chase Pinkham (USA)
Frank Pipp (USA)
Jeremy Vennell (NZL)
Eric Young (USA)
Manager: Glen Mitchell
Director: Omer Kem