By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
Jonas Carney, director sportif of the Kelly Benefits-Medifast team, has secured two key additions for his young team in 2008 - stage race contender Andrew Bajadali and sprinter Alex Candelario - from the current Jelly Belly team. The additions, combined with the retention of many current riders, is an attempt by the team to gain entry to the major races in the US for next season.
"I hope it makes a difference," Carney told Cyclingnews. "We are shooting to be in at least one or two of either California, Georgia and Missouri. I think having [Bajadali and Candelario] helps in addition to our results from this year."
Carney and Candelario have known each other for many years, having raced alongside one another at Jelly Belly and on an earlier team. This is something that Carney sees as a unique advantage for him. "He and I were on Prime Alliance together for two years and Jelly Belly one year," he explained. "I don't think there are two guys out there that know each other better, so I think its a good fit."
Candelario brings years of criterium racing experience to the team. Yet this is one thing that the team did not lack this year, with Canadian Martin Gilbert winning the US criterium championships in August. However Carney would like to see Candelario win the race for the national champion jersey that Carney won in his final year racing and that has eluded Candelario.
Bajadali represents the team's general classification hopes for 2008, something that Carney said was missing in this establishing year. "I think we lacked the go-to guy at the end of the race this year , a GC kind of guy," he said. "We did well in the sprints but were leaning on Bowman really hard for GC. I think Bajadali will step up for us next year."
One of the reasons Carney was able to move on these two key riders is that his sponsors signed up for another year early. "Kelly and Medifast and all came on early, so I was able to talk to my current and new riders early too," noted Carney. "We have a solid year under our belt and there is a lot more enthusiasm since winning pro crit." Winning in Downers Grove was a big shot in the arm for the team, but was even bigger since the majority of the team's sponsors were watching the race first hand. "To win pro crit was huge, but to have John Kelly and other sponsors was great - that was huge!"
With most of the team signed and sponsors happy with current results, Carney is understandably optimistic for next season. "Those two guys are capable of winning just about any race, so we now have a great potential for next year."