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UCI Continental team Jelly Belly p/b Kenda beefed up its roster by signing four new climbers including Americans Scott Stewart and Menso de Jong along with Dutch rider Ricardo van der Velde and Mexico’s Luis Enrique Davila. Directeur Sportif, Danny Van Haute will bring an improved climbing team to the top stage races in the US and Asia during the 2012 season.
"They bring experience and strength in their climbing ability," Van Haute told Cyclingnews. "I looked at our team over the last few years and we were always short on climbers and these days you need one or three good climbers on the team to be in the hunt to win. Also, Scott and Ricardo bring experience to the team, coming from Pro Continental teams."
Stewart joins the team having competed for two seasons under the Professional Continental outfit Team Type 1. He has placed inside the top ten at stages of the Vuelta Mexico, Tour of Quinghi Lake, Tour de Korea and Settimana Coppi e Bartali. He will be joined by van der Velde who raced with Donkers Koffie-Jelly Belly this year, however, his previous experience with ProTeam Garmin-Transitions will no doubt add to the domestic program.
De Jong comes from Continental team Wonderful Pistachios and is a strong collegiate racer in the mountain bike and road disciplines. Davila brings his climbing expertise from the Mexico’s Under 23 National Team.
"Finding these riders is not a big challenge at all, over the race season we are always looking for new riders and it's as simple as looking at results every weekend and seeing who is always riding in the top ten local or national races," Van Haute said. "Another way is coaches in the field that you trust, that will give you a good recommendation for a rider like Davila from Mexico."
Returning riders include cyclo-cross talent Jeremy Powers and former US Pro Criterium Champion Brad Huff along with Sergio Hernandez, Sean Mazich, Will Dickeson, Alex Hagman, Nic Hamilton and Emerson Oronte.
Jelly Belly p/b Kenda will focus on stage races in Asia and in the US with a priority on domestic UCI events such as the Tour of California, Tour of Utah, USA Pro Cycling Challenge and Philadlephia International Cycling Championships.
USA Cycling recently announced the separation of National Racing Calendar (NRC) stage races and criteriums. According to Van Haute, his team will place a larger emphasis on the stage race calendar and less of an emphasis on the criterium calendar.
"We will follow the new NRC stage race format," Van Haute said. "The NRC Crit program, for me, is still too large with too many races. We can’t do every race in the program but we will do a few. Our program is to get the riders better prepare for the bigger races like Amgen Tour of California, USA Pro Challenge, US Pro Championships, Tour of Utah and to do this you can’t ride crits every weekend."
Van Haute recently announced that Jelly Belly Candy Company will support his team through 2013 and additional sponsors Focus, Kenda, Pactimo and Rudy Project have all signed on for another two seasons.
"I take my hat off to Jelly Belly Candy Company - they are an icon in the sport," Van Haute said. "I appreciate all our sponsors like Jelly Belly, Focus, Kenda, Rudy Project, Gatorade, DT Swiss, Compex and many more for their commitment to the team for the next two years to field the best team on the road for success. Plus, we have a few new sponsors that we are working on that will be name soon. I'm excited about the up in coming years with all our sponsors and riders."