Even though weather was inconveniently soggy over some of Team Type 1 – Sanofi’s 10-day Tucson-based training camp, the mood was still all business as the team prepared for its upcoming 2012 season.
Revamping its overall team structure, the American Professional Continental squad has upped its rider and staff numbers to take on a triple program – two in Europe and one in the US – to give more flexibility to the riders and ensure a presence throughout the racing season.
Team Type 1-Sanofi General Manager Vassili Davidenko said gaining entry into bigger European tours one of this year’s major objectives. To accomplish that though, it’s crucial the team hits the ground running during the early season races.
"Paris-Nice is where we can show the potential of the team," he told Cyclingnews. "And I think the team is ready for that next step."
Tour of Turkey overall winner Aleksandr Efimkin, who moved from the ProTour AG2R-La Mondiale team to Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis at the end of 2010, is a rider of note to Davidenko, who said he also has high hopes for Tour of Denmark stage two winner Remy Cusin and Julien El Fares, both transfers from Cofidis and both fierce, experienced stage racers.
"We also have Daniele Colli who was, at the beginning of 2011, suffering from cancer of the leg," Davidenko said. "He’s back, and been on the podium for almost every race he’s participated in, so he’s another rider that we expect to be on top and to win races."
The team has also developed a deep pool of sprinter talent in Aldo Ilesic, Jure Kocjan and Filippo Fortin, who finished sixth at the Espoir Worlds last season.
Team Type 1 hired former Tour De France stage winner and legendary French sprinter Frederic Moncassin as one of three directeur sportifs this year. Massimo Podenzana is staying on with the team and Jack Seehafer, who was directeur sportif of the highly successful Colavita/Sutter Home professional women's team in 2008, rounds out the talented triple threat.
Just last month, Seehafer led a young Team Type 1 squad to five stage wins and first and second overall at the Tour of Rwanda, showcasing his stellar ability to lead.
"He’ll be spending more time with the team," CEO and Team Founder Phil Southerland said. "We are really proud of his growth and organization; so I think he will be a big add for us."
Southerland said that from a management perspective, the team is now self-assured after a productive year learning the ropes in Europe. Their successful season and growing reputation made for an easy recruitment process heading into 2012.
"We kept the good guys, we retained our talent and everyone came in motivated." Southerland said. "I remember the presentation from last year to this year and the guys showed up, but it wasn’t in full seriousness. This year, everyone showed up in really good shape. They know that the start of the year is very important for us, for the invitations later in the year and we have high expectations."
Last season, finding the right balance is something Southerland said management had to learn, as their demanding 10-month season, including travel to 15 countries, began to take a toll on his riders.
"We raced our guys a little bit too hard last year and everyone was falling apart by June. We had a really good April and May, and then June, during the Tour de Suisse, our team was really tired," he said. "When a rider says he’s tired we have to find a way to give him a break."
At the end of the day, there really is only one spot left for the Tour, Southerland said. There are three Pro Continental French teams, which means that Team Type 1 needs to be the "best the rest."
"The Tour de France and the Giro D’Italia know about us, they love our story and they know we would be a great platform to increase the visibility of cycling to a whole new audience, however you don’t increase visibility if you are hanging out at the back of races."
But this year, he’s confident Team Type 1-Sanofi has mixed the right amount of talent and experience to get there.