The Chipotle Development Team, which has been a staple of the US domestic circuit for years, will focus on a mostly European racing schedule for the 2012 season.
Team Director Chann McRae said Garmin-Cervelo's development squad will live and race out of a team house in Toulouse, France, hitting a full schedule of UCI 2.1 and 2.2 races to better prepare riders for the rigors of the World Tour.
“When you put riders into the World Tour you want them to be 100 percent ready to go because there's no time to really learn once you're there,” McRae said. “All the learning needs to be done at the Continental level.”
So instead of lining up for the US National Race Calendar Redlands Bicycle Classic in California this coming March, the Chipotle boys will toe the line at Paris-Tours.
“Redlands is fun and historically a great race,” McRae said. “But we need our guys in Normandy in the gutter just killing it at mach speed for four hours straight with crashes left and right, learning how to position and all that stuff. That's something that you don't get at a race like Redlands exactly.”
Beyond providing the international experience for riders, setting up a centrally located house in France is also a more efficient use of team resources, McRae said.
“We targeted the house in a location so that we were around a lot of UCI 2.1 and 2.2 races that were within driving distance,” he said. “In the US, if you're on the NRC circuit, you're flying to 80 percent of the races. And in the US you don't get start money. You're having to find meals for the riders, you're having to book the hotels, sometimes you get home stays, which are awesome. But in Europe they just give you X amount of start money, hotels, meals, food, and we can drive to all the races.”
McRae said the team has signed 15 riders for 2012, but four or five of the US riders will be on rotation with the U23 national team at any given time. “So sometimes they'll be in Lucca, sometimes they'll be in Izegem and sometimes they'll be in Toulouse,” he said.
Danny Summerhill, who rode with the Pro Team as a stagiaire for several months at the end of the 2011 season, will be one of the Chipotle riders hoping to benefit from the European immersion by piling up the international results that get the directors' attention.
“I just saw the schedule and it looks pretty exciting,” Summerhill said. “It'll be by far the most Euro racing I've ever had on my plate, so I'm pretty anxious and excited for that. We're not going to prove ourselves to the ProTour team unless we do so. Racing in Europe I think is what it's all about for trying to get a spot on the big team next year.”
That's exactly the motivation McRae expects will lead to some high-profile results against the Europeans on their home turf.
“They all want big results,” McRae said of his young team. “Every one of the riders we have on the team has an ambition to get to the World Tour. And they know there's only one way to do that, and that's to prevail and be on the podium at these races.”
US riders on Chipotle will return for the national championships, which remain a main target for the team, and McRae said there's still a chance fans will see the development squad at other US races. “We'll be where Chipotle wants us to be and where their targeted markets are,” he said. “They give us tremendous support; it's like a dream sponsorship. So if they ask us to be at a race, we're definitely going to represent Chipotle at that race.”