Garmin-Cervélo rolled out its 2012 WorldTour squad in front of several hundred fans and sponsors at the Boulder Theater in Boulder, Colorado, officially naming Thomas Dekker to the top level team as a late addition, after much speculation. Also in under the wire is Alex Rasmussen, whose whereabouts violation case was dismissed by his federation today and who therefore has a valid contract.
The presentation gala featured a film by producer Nigel Dick, entitled "Journey to a Dream", which reiterated the Garmin-Cervélo team's mission: to develop talented riders, to win against 'bigger' squads through sacrifice and teamwork and to act as champions in the anti-doping movement.
The film introduced two of the original riders developed by Vaughters, Alex Howes and Peter Stetina, against a recap of the team's success of 2011, and was followed by a speech from Slipstream Sports CEO, Jonathan Vaughters, which outlined the team's "firsts".
The 30-rider team includes additions to the sprint trains, with Robbie Hunter returning to the squad, plus fast men Rasmussen, Koldo Fernandez and Fabian Wegmann. Belgian Sebastien Rosseler adds firepower in the time trial as well as Classics departments.
Young riders Nathan Haas and Jack Bauer will be given leeway to find their places in the team, but both are fast finishers, while Alex Howes, Jacob Rathe and Raymond Kreder move up from the team's Chipotle development squad.
The "island of misfit toys"
Some may see the signing of Dekker, who admitted to doping and who served a two-year suspension, as going against the team's anti-doping mission, but team manager Jonathan Vaughters told Cyclingnews that he is convinced that Dekker is committed to racing clean, and has the talent to succeed at the top level.
"We've done 18 months of testing on him to determine this," Vaughters said. "That included power tests every month and corresponding blood tests. His power should go up as his training increases, but his blood values shouldn't. That's exactly what happened, and his last tests when he won Duo Normand were world class."
The amount of talent in the Dutch rider coupled with his relative bargain contract price after his suspension gave Dekker the edge over other riders who were without contracts.
"Should I turn down an athlete who's in the top five per cent of guys from a physiological standpoint because he got caught [doping] when many others in his generation didn't get caught? That's a wrong decision.
"It is ethically wrong to toss aside someone for something they did because they got caught, but to welcome people who've done the same thing in their past and simply didn't get caught. It's an attitude that's taken far too often in cycling."
Vaughters said that Dekker arrived in the USA for the camp without a firm commitment, and that the decision came down to whether or not he could fit in with the team.
"He was scared, he came here without a contract at the beginning of camp. He stood up in front of the team and said this is what I did and it was wrong, and I want a second chance. It's not an easy thing to do ... especially for him - coming off the plane, not really knowing what to expect. I threw him off the deep end and didn't give him a lot of reassurances that it would work out.
"As the week progressed, he showed that he's willing to be a team player and to do things our way, not to do it his way or anyone else's. From an ethical standpoint, I feel like I need to give him a chance."
As far as Alex Rasmussen, Vaughters said he would honour the Dane's contract, which was not affected by his multiple whereabouts violations. Rasmussen tallied up three separate failures to accurately report his whereabouts to the anti-doping authorities, but blamed the lapses on "stupid mistakes". His federation dismissed his case when it found that the UCI failed to report his violation in a timely manner, as specified in its own rules. "It wasn't even guilty or not guilty, they dismissed it. He has a perfectly valid contract and will be racing with us next year," Vaughters said.
Returning riders set the tone
The team's veterans provided a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Garmin-Cervélo. From the sincerity of Tyler Farrar and Tom Danielson to the grateful Johan Vansummeren, the group's tight bonds were far from staged. The night's top entertainment came from the always frank David Millar giving amusing anecdotes from the Tour de France and Christian Vande Velde, who sported outrageous argyle trousers. But the night's biggest laugh, as usual, was from David Zabriskie, who performed a special song dedicated to Vaughters.
2012 Team Garmin-Cervélo
Christian Vande Velde
Christophe Le Mevel
Alex Howes (neo)
Jacob Rathe (neo)
Raymond Kreder (neo)
Nathan Haas (neo)
Jack Bauer (Endura)
Koldo Fernandez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
Robby Hunter (RadioShack)
Sebastien Rosseler (RadioShack)
Alex Rasmussen (HTC-Highroad)
Fabian Wegmann (Leopard Trek)
Geert Van Bondt
Director of Competition: