Thomas Craven makes his return to professional cycling as the sports director of the new UCI Continental BMC-Hincapie Sportswear Team, a US-based development squad for the ProTour BMC Racing Team.
Craven, who raced professionally from the late 1980s through the mid-1990s highlighted by a season with 7-Eleven, looks forward to his new position.
"It's something that I've actually been working towards for a while," Craven told Cyclingnews. "I was disappointed after my cycling career ended that I wasn't able to do anything, there wasn't really the opportunity.
"A couple of years ago I went down to USPRO nationals with Bobby Julich and drove the car for the BMC guys and last year I worked for Frankie [Andreu] down there for the Kenda team. With the championships in Greenville [South Carolina] I made the re-connection with Rich [Hincapie] and George [Hincapie]. I was able to see Och (Jim Ochowicz) a couple of times with our 7-Eleven reunion so I just had my name out there a lot."
The team will meet for the first time at a training camp in the Bahamas, the home of team sponsor Mark Holowesko, in mid-December followed by a 10-day camp at its home base in Greenville in January. George Hincapie, who Craven calls "the driving force" of the team, will join the development squad at both camps.
"He has the lineage and the mentorship to really bring these kids along," said Craven. "It's how I started racing. You race with your friends, you have a good time, you're serious about it, and you build that source of camaraderie and mentorship.
"That's what I think alot of guys are missing and that's what George recognizes. You've got teams, you've got riders and you've got stuff but who are the guys out there who are going to teach them to be bike racers, and not just rely on power meters, top speed and aerodynamics. There's alot more that comes into it than those things. I've always liked to be the best bike racer, and not necessarily the fittest person out there. That's what I hope to be able to bring: strategy and mentorship. It's the preparation, it's how do you travel, it's all those other things that can't be dialed in with a computer."
The bulk of the team's 2012 race calendar will involve domestic races on the National Racing Calendar and National Criterium Calendar and Craven hopes to have the team race internationally as well, likely in South America and Europe.
"We want to do the full NRC and NCC schedule as that permits. We've got some guys who are already have a foot in with the national team so I was thinking that just by virtue of injuries, sickness and guys that are rotating into the national team program that we'll have eight to ten riders all the time.
"Hopefully we'll be doing a race in South America, possibly Uruguay [following the January training camp]. I've got some connections down there and we're working on one of those stage races before we get to Redlands. There's a good opportunity to go to Europe in August. We're putting some feelers out right now to go to Italy, hopefully, since the weather's better."