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Pro scene gets a boost from influx of teams
At least four US men's teams have applied for first-time UCI Continental status in 2014, Cyclingnews has confirmed. Team Airgas, Astellas, Champion System-Stans No Tubes and InCycle-Predator Components all filed paperwork with USA Cycling before the final deadline passed on Tuesday.
USAC spokesman Bill Kellick said the governing body would not comment on which teams have applied, choosing instead to release the complete list of US UCI teams in mid-December after the applications have been approved. But Cyclingnews confirmed with each of the teams that they recently filed the applications for Continental status.
All four of the new Continental applicants raced at the Domestic Elite level during the 2013 season and had a strong presence at regional and national races.
Racing as D3 Devo-Airgas in its debut season, the Philadelphia-based Airgas development team competed in the USA Crits Championship Series, the Sea Otter Classic, the Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic, the Cascade Cycling Classic and other national events.
Director Chris Johnson told Cyclingnews that the team will continue with a development focus but will not be restricted to U23 riders. The 12-rider 2014 roster will be comprised of athletes who are all new to the Continental level and features four riders from the fabled Fort Lewis collegiate team.
Team targets for 2014 will likely include the hometown race in Philly and the national championships, with the potential for some international racing as well.
Airgas is the largest US distributor of industrial, medical and specialty gases, as well as welding equipment and supplies, according to the company's website. Airgas is a leading producer of atmospheric gases, carbon dioxide, dry ice and nitrous oxide. The company is also one of the largest US distributors of refrigerants, ammonia products and process chemicals.
Mid-West based Astellas Cycling Team started in 2012 and has raced a full calendar of domestic and National Race Calendar events over the past two years as Astellas Oncology. The team has also competed at the Tour de Beauce in Canada and the An Post Ras in Ireland.
Matt Curin, an Astellas project manager who also serves as the team liaison, said the third-year squad only recently finalized the 2014 sponsorship details with the Astellas Pharma, Inc., a Tokyo-based pharmaceutical company with affiliates in North America, South America, Asia, Europe and Australia.
The team will race a 2014 program similar to what it has done in the past, Curin said, including many of the NRC and National Criterium Calendar events. Astellas will also apply for entry into the North American UCI 2.1 and 2.HC races in California, Utah, Colorado and Alberta, although gaining entry for a first-year Continental team would be an obvious challenge. The squad fielded an 11-rider roster as an amateur team in 2013, and Curin said that number would grow to 14 or 15 riders next year.
Champion System-Stans No Tubes started in New York in 2012 with a mission to develop athletes from the Northeast and provide a sustainable platform for national and international exposure, according to the team website.
Team manager Igor Volshteyn told Cyclingnews that team will be 100 per cent focused on criteriums in 2014 with a few one-day UCI races also on the schedule. The team will return four riders from the 2013 roster, and it has signed former Smart Stop-Mountain Khakis sprinter Isaac Howe to help bring home the results in the NCC and USA Crits Championship Series. The team also signed Andres Alzate, younger brother of UnitedHealthcare speedster Carlos.
Champion System is an Asian-based clothing company that also sponsored a Pro Continental team for the past two years before the team folded at the end of the season. Stans No Tubes is a New York-based manufacturer of tubeless tire systems.
Based out of Southern California, InCycle-Predator Components specialized in criterium racing last year as Predator Carbon Repair. The team focused on the NCC and USA Crits Championship Series, along with select NRC stage races. Current US pro road champion Freddie Rodriguez started the 2013 season with the team before moving to Jelly Belly and winning his fourth national road title.
InCycle will take over title sponsorship in 2014, backed up by Predator Components. Cannondale will take over as the team's bike sponsor. Team co-owner Micah Cloteaux told Cyclingnews the team was waiting on the final UCI confirmation in December before moving forward with any statements to the press.
Teams applying for UCI Continental status, which requires a majority of the riders to be under 28 and that 60 percent to be from the US, must supply USA Cycling with copies of contracts for all of the sponsors, riders and staff. They must also supply a complete operating budget, proof of medical insurance for the riders and a bank guarantee of either $27,000 or 15 percent of the salary package, whichever his higher.
Teams must also pay a $2,716 fee to the UCI, along with $2,800 to USA Cycling in fees and to cover the anti-doping "Race Clean" program. A final fee of $750 goes to the auditing firm that ensures each application meets all the UCI requirements.
USA Cycling's Kellick said the governing body manages all of the Continental team applications, adding that no team has ever been denied.