The Cannondale team returned to California for its 2014 official team presentation on Tuesday night, with Peter Sagan, Moreno Moser, Ivan Basso, Damiano Caruso, Elia Viviani, Ted King and their teammates becoming rock stars for a night in a group named 'The Green Machine'.
While the event didn't quite match the razzmatazz of last year's movie themed launch at Hollywood's Paramount Pictures, Cannondale's follow-up for 2014 was certainly no less low key. Sequels to Hollywood hits often go down the bigger, darker route, but the team's sophomore effort at the Canyon Club in nearby Westlake Village was a much smaller, more playful affair.
The movie theme of 2013 pitched Peter Sagan as the leading man and this year's musical number again saw the Slovakian front and centre, this time as front man of his own band, flanked by his teammates. We only got to see the group in action on a pre-recorded video from the studio and so it was left to Moser to showcase his vocal talents in a cameo with the evening's real band, a 'super group' of established American musicians who also happen to be cycling aficionados.
Last year's launch was very much a one-off show, a grand no-expense-spared party to mark Cannondale's debut as sole owner of their team.
Viviani, for one, was happy they reined things in this time round. In 2013 the size of the launch meant he spent as much time off the bike as on it and given he begins his season shortly at the Tour Down Under, he was glad to get on the road and take advantage of the heat wave that's baked California this winter.
“The Tour Down Under is a hard race, mainly because it's tough to race with Australians at this time of year with the form they build for the national championships,” he told Cyclingnews.
As last year, Viviani was part of the five-man group that the team promotes as its leaders. Sagan was, as ever, the charismatic front man. With hair now as big as his status within the team, he is the rider on the WorldTour who, percentage-wise, contributed the most points to his team's tally in 2013 and so Cannondale will once again be looking to him as their go-to guy for wins.
The biggest cheer of the night was saved for Ted King, the support act who has as big a following in the USA thanks to his unstinting efforts on the bike and his popularity and affability off it.
Cannondale has had one of the youngest squads for the past couple of seasons and 2014 they're skewing even younger. The most eye-catching signing is that of Slovenian U23 World Champion Matej Mohoric. New head coach Sebastian Weber, formerly of Katusha and personal coach of Tony Martin, called the youngsters power tremendous, with “very interesting” numbers recorded from his initial testing. Despite his credentials, 19 is extremely young to make it to the WorldTour and Mohoric insists 2014 is geared purely around bedding into his new surroundings.
Sojasun as possible second sponsor
Ever since Liquigas's departure, Cannondale has made clear that they would continue to search for new sponsors to plug the void. That failed to materialize last year; talks with Oleg Tinkov eventually came to naught, though negotiations with Sojasun, whose own team folded at the end of 2013, are ongoing. Cyclingnews spoke to Bob Burbank, General Manager of Cannondale Bicycles, about the sponsorship issue, immediately after he'd left the stage following his stirring performance of Bon Jovi's It's My Life.
“We've been approached by a lot of different people who want to join the team. And I think what we've learnt over the last few years is that this isn't a dating type of scenario. It's really a marriage. We have a very clear vision about where we want to take this team within our sport and what we're striving for is finding those like-minded partners. Someone might come to us with an opportunity but if it's not a perfect fit then we'll patiently wait for that right relationship to come along."
“We had a lot of conversations with Tinkov. He had a very firm vision on where he'd like to take the team and we have ours. While we had a lot of common ground it wasn't that absolute marriage. There's a lot of commonality with Sojasun. Right now we're going back and forth with them to figure out what that marriage looks like.”
A true relationship with Sagan
As important an issue is the fact that Sagan's contract expires at the end of 2014 and his departure is something Cannondale and Burbank won't even want to consider. “Its early but our goal is obviously to retain Peter,” he added. “His entire career has been spent with Cannondale - it's a true relationship.”