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Former Garmin-Slipstream rider Michael Friedman will lead his new Jelly Belly presented by Kenda team in its fifth consecutive Amgen Tour of California set to take place from May 16-23. The US-based UCI Continental team will rely on Friedman's ProTour expertise to bring them a highly sought after stage win.
"On paper the first and second stage and even the last stage look like they would be the best stages for me because they aren't that mountainous," Friedman told Cyclingnews. "That said, once the GC is set anyone who is not a threat might be able to go up the road. I'll be hunting for breakaways and stage wins all week."
Friedman will lead a team of eight riders that includes Jonathan Chodroff, William Dickenson, Brad Huff, Jeremy Powers, Kiel Reijnen, Will Routley and Bernard Van Ulden.
"Mike brings leadership, anyone who comes from a ProTour team is going to be experienced in positioning and telling the guys what to do," said the outfit's directeur sportif, Danny Van Haute. "His conditioning is very good and he will be the team leader. He is a good teacher.
"I had Mike eight years ago as a junior and now I have him back as a professional and he has blossomed into a really good rider," Van Haute said. "He has the opportunity to be a leader with us. With Garmin he was a super domestique and he changed his role and look what happened, he won the Tour of Korea. I'm expecting big things from him and the riders are thriving on his leadership on and off the bike."
The outfit returned stateside following a successful Tour de Korea last month where Friedman won the overall title at the ten-day stage race and Jelly Belly won the overall best team competition.
"California is quite a bit different than Korea was," Friedman said. "California is much more mountainous with multiple days that are going to be hard. It is no secret that the depth of the field is going to be more difficult than Korea was. That said, Korea was based on teamwork and I never would have won that race by myself. Not only does it prove that I am on good form but also that the team is on good form."
Jelly Belly kicked off the year with Jonathan Chodroff's win at the Valley of the Sun Stage Race in February. The following month Will Routley went on to win a stage of the Redlands Bicycle Classic and placed 3rd overall. The team travelled overseas and swept the podium in the opening stage of the Tour of Thailand and Kiel Reijnen went on to win the overall title.
"Jelly Belly-Kenda Cycling Team is very excited to be invited to the Amgen Tour of California for the fifth year in a row and we are also happy, like most teams, that the race is happening in May rather than February this year," Van Haute said. "It gave us more time to prepare for the race. The riders that I selected have ridden the Tour of Korea, Redlands and the Tour of Thailand."
Van Haute believes that Kiel Reijnen and Will Routley are capable of placing inside the top 15 in the overall classification at the Amgen Tour of California, with guidance from Friedman.
"Like everyone else we would like to win a stage," Van Haute said. "I think it is possible to win a stage and that is because the race is now in May and that has given us better condition than we have in February. We are going to shoot for a top 15 in the overall because Kiel and Will are climbing very well right now and hopefully that will continue."