Heading into his fifth season of the Slipstream sports "experiment" Garmin-Transitions team manager Jonathan Vaughters has to call the project a success. The American has worked towards building one of the sport's top teams while maintaining strict anti-doping ethics.
After the dissolution of the Cervelo TestTeam, Vaughters will have a half-dozen of the squad's best riders, including Paris-Roubaix runner-up Thor Hushovd, and Cervelo as his new bike sponsor for 2011.
Adding in the points that will transfer along with Hushovd and Heinrich Haussler to the team's World Ranking tally, Garmin-Cervelo could start next season as the number one ranked team in the world.
"We will have a strong Classics squad without a doubt," Vaughters told Cyclingnews when asked if his would be the team to beat in 2011. "There is still Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen who will want to win the Classics, though."
It was well known that Vaughters considered signing Tour de France champion Alberto Contador last year as a way to raise the team's profile, but he said he actually is more excited about boosting the team with Hushovd, Roger Hammond, Haussler, Brett Lancaster, Dan Lloyd, Gabriel Rasch and Andreas Klier in addition to his already solid roster. "This way it has to be about the team and not an individual star."
Over the years, Vaughters has prided himself on picking out unsung talent, hand-selecting riders based not only on their results and ethics, but also their personalities in order to build a cohesive unit - a band of brothers. Will all that change with the influx of Cervelo's riders?
"I feel like Cervelo has also been at the forefront of ethical teams. They were a member of the MPCC (Movement For Credible Cycling), which is more restrictive than even the WADA code. They kept Xavier Florencio from starting the Tour because he took a medication that wasn't approved by his team doctors. That kind of pre-emptive action shows they really stood their ground on ethics, and I think all the riders will slot right in from that perspective."
He also sees no problem between the top riders, all of whom have complementary abilities. "Tyler [Farrar] is a pure sprinter, he's very good at knocking around with 180 guys, while Thor is a sprinter for a select group. I see more overlap between Hushovd and Heinrich Haussler, but those two have already proven to be really effective teammates.
"It will be really important to establish a strong team bond early in the year, and if we can do that we can win a lot of races. It will be a challenge, but I like a good challenge."
There will be some consistency within the team from 2010 to 2011. Vaughters explained that while he has tried to help find positions for as many of the Cervelo staff as he can, all of the current Garmin-Transitions staff will stay, including head directeur sportif Matt White.
As far as riders go, the team did not have the UCI's allowed maximum of 30 riders this year, it had 28, so with six incoming he will have to make the difficult decision to cut four. Dutch rider Ricardo Van der Velde already revealed via Twitter that he has not been offered a contract..
Vaughters added that Andrew Talansky, a neo-pro who signed to the team this summer, will be a part of the ProTour squad, which means four other current riders will be leaving the team.
Garmin-Transitions will put a lot more into its U23 development team, which will move up to the UCI Continental level in 2011.
"The U23 team will grow considerably, and take on a calendar of 50-60 days of international racing," he said. "We haven't been able to focus on the U23 side as much as teams like Trek-Livestrong who had a bigger budget, and I wasn't able to give my guys that kind of schedule this season. But next year they'll have a good, solid international schedule.
"That way when we take riders from the U23 team onto the ProTour team, they'll already have done big races like a Tour de Langkawi and will be just one step away from the ProTour. Right now the U23 team is two steps away, so we wanted to reinforce the U23 side."
The Garmin-Cervelo empire will also include the world's number one ranked women's team - something Vaughters admits he has absolutely no experience with.
"It's very new to me, so for the time being I am going to rely on the people who have run the team so far, but it's something I'm very interested in becoming more educated about."
Reports that the team has signed Giro d'Italia champion Mara Abbott, however, were not true. "The reporter from the Denver Post asked if I would be signing any riders from Colorado, if there were any riders from the area who were good enough, and I said Mara Abbott is one of the best in the world.
"My personal assistant is one of Mara's best friends, but I've only had brief e-mail conversations with Mara. But Egon Van Kessel will continue to lead the team and make signing decisions, and I respect his opinions on its direction."
Cervelo co-founder Gerard Vroomen was passionate about equality between men's and women's cycling, and stated in an interview that he felt every ProTour team should be required by the UCI to run a women's program. Vaughters agreed there should be steps taken but that other things need to happen first to help grow women's cycling.
"There isn't a clear, cohesive international circuit. In order to get sponsorship dollars, there have to be events where the women can showcase those sponsors. Then it becomes easier to build teams and grow the sport."
In 2011, Garmin-Cervelo will be one of three ProTour teams to have a women's program, along with HTC-Columbia and Team Geox.