Two US domestic teams that missed out on all three major North American UCI stage races last season will return to the 2013 Tour of California with improved rosters and heightened motivation.
AEG announced today that Jamis-Hagens Berman and 5-hour Energy/Kenda will join fellow US Continental teams Bissell Pro Cycling, Bontrager Development and Optum Pro Cycling on the start line in Escondido on May 12. Champion System, NetApp and UnitedHealthcare will represent the Pro Continental ranks, with ProTour squads BMC, Cannondale, Omega Pharma-QuickStep, Orica GreenEdge, RadioShack, Garmin-Sharp, Saxo-Tinkoff and Vacansoleil filling out the start list.
"It's something we've been working for all winter," said Frankie Andreu, director of the 5-hour Energy/Kenda team that missed out on the race last year. "In putting together the team for 2013, we had this main focus of building a stage-race team of time trialists and climbers so we could do well at getting into these big races. So 5-hour Energy is extremely excited, and we're pleased to go."
Jamis-Hagens Berman director Sebastián Alexandre was equally pleased about the opportunity to show off his new roster at the California race. Last season organizers of California, the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado passed on inviting Alexandre's team, but adding talented all-arounder Ben Jacques-Maynes, Colombian climbing specialist Janier Acevedo and former ProTour sprinter Juan Jose Haedo to the roster obviously pushed the team over the top this year.
"You do a lot of hard work to put a team together, and then when you get an invitation you see that the hard work has paid off," Alexandre said.
Andreu's 5-hour Energy/Kenda team is the product of a merger between his 2012 Kenda program and the former Competitive Cyclist squad led the past two seasons by Gord Fraser. Two-time National Race Calendar winner and former Grand Tour rider Francisco Mancebo of Spain will lead the team in its quest to prove itself worthy of the California invitation and then earn a few more. To that end, Andreu said, his team will focus on breakaways and stage wins.
"We want to be part of the breaks, because being part of the breaks means you're part of the race. But I'm not going to stop there," Andreu said. "Even though we're racing against the best guys in the world, we're going to have an objective of trying to set things up to try and win a stage. So each day we're going to have that objective; we're going to shoot to win the stage. If that means getting in the breaks and doing it from the front or trying to figure out a different way to do it, then that's something we'll have to tackle with each day."
Aside from Mancebo, Andreu tabbed Nate English as the team's other possible GC threat, and he believes he has a few more options as well.
"Taylor Sheldon and Max Jenkins are obviously strong support riders, but if they get into the right move they can have their opportunities coming from a break," Andreu said. "So they'll be two strong assets."
Alexandre, the Jamis-Hagens Berman director, also hopes to have multiple options with his bolstered roster. Jacques-Maynes, one of the only riders who has competed in all seven previous Amgen Tour of California races, was arguably one of the most aggressive riders in last year's event and also won the climber's classification at Utah. Alexandre said he believes Jacques-Maynes and Jamis veteran Luis Amaran will be good prospects for riding the breakaways and flying the team's colors on a daily basis.
Acevedo, who won a stage of the 2011 Tour of Utah while riding for Colombian Gobernacion-Indeportes team but is otherwise not well known in the States, will likely carry the team's GC hopes, Alexandre said. Haedo, a 32-year-old Argentinian bunch sprinter who claimed more than 20 wins over the past six seasons on ProTour teams CSC and Saxo Bank, should offer the team's best stage-win chances.
"Acevedo just finished in the top 10 in San Luis with guys like Tejay van Garderen and [Alberto] Contador, so Acevedo definitely is our GC card for the race," Alexandre said. "J.J. Haedo can win a stage. He has six victories at the Tour of California, and he's motivated."
After a year of sitting out America's biggest stage races rather than competing in them, Alexandre said, the entire team is motivated to make a splash this year.
"I think we put a very strong team together for the 2013 season, and being invited to the biggest race in America is a big motivation for the whole team, starting with the management to the riders," he said. "So I'm really looking forward to having the best Tour of California we've ever had, and we're working hard to get the guys ready for the race. Everybody's excited to be back."