Kenda Pro Cycling's team owner Chad Thompson went back to the drawing board after his team struggled to gain results in the National Racing Calendar (NRC) this past road season. Time-intensive brainstorming between he and the team's co-sponsors revealed two key ingredients essential for increasing its chances for victory in 2010 - funding and Frankie Andreu.
"We met with the people at Kenda, generally, on how to improve the team," said Thompson founder of Inferno Racing LLC, Kenda Pro Cycling's management company. "It really boils down to funding because from a supply standpoint we have great sponsors. We felt that we needed to modify the direction, really follow our mission statement and progress. In order to do that we needed to get a DS that can be full time, commit all year to the team, someone with experience and who is respected and Frankie's it."
Their working relationship began two years ago with the intention that Thompson would find the means to hire Andreu as a full time directeur sportif once the team could afford him. "Everyone knows he has a checkered history but he is a very sought-after DS," said Thompson. "He is respected, he is a mid-west guy too. I know him well, he's laid back, doesn't lose his cool and is great with the riders. That was the immediate change."
Part of the funding required to hire Andreu came from title sponsor Kenda who doubled the cycling team's budget for the 2010 year. Furthermore, Jimmy Yang, Kenda owner, and Stefano Lumbaca, Kenda road manager, doubled the amount of technical support. The team recently announced the addition of Gear Grinders, headed by Paul Weaver, as a presenting financial sponsor. Weaver committed to provide the team with assets such as a team trailer, van and follow-car. According to Thompson there may be the addition of a surprise sponsors to be announced at a later date.
Thompson is a former professional bike racer turned full-time fire fighter in Ohio. After an eight-year career he decided to try his hand at racing again, on a part-time basis while continuing to maintain his career and support his family life as a new father. "I joined Honey Stinger, a small local team," said Thompson. "I wanted to step it up to the next level to make it a really elite team. In 2005 it became my team. We started the company Inferno Racing which was designed to manage a cycling team."
In its second season as a UCI Continental team, Kenda Pro Cycling will embark on it's seventh transformation since its inception in 2005 as the initial Honey Stinger-Spinergy team. Success rolled in with the addition of sprinter Mark Hekman in 2006, as the Abercrombie & Fitch Elite Cycling Team turned into a professional development team the following year. The team lost its title fashion sponsorship in 2008 and became known simply as Inferno Pro Cycling, named after its management company.
"Kenda approached us in 2009 and Kenda's Stefano Lumbaca wanted to convince owner Jimmy Yang to have a men's pro team, to run a UCI Continental team," Thompson said. "We struggled to get results last year, our first season as a UCI outfit, because of a lot of injuries. We really want to expand on our previous success and honor that UCI license."
Thompson has reinforced the team with 13 fresh faces preparing this off-season to take on the 2010 with a winning attitude. New riders include Philip Gaimon (Jelly Belly), Chad Hartley (BMC), Jonny Sundt and Nick Waite (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Stefano Barberi (formerly of Toyota-United), Nick Keough (BikeReg.com), Rob Bush (Texas Roadhouse) and James Stemper (Gear Grinder), Johny Parish, Chris Monteleone, Jim Baldesare, Marco Aledia and Rich Harper. Returning riders include Jake Rytlewski, Scottie Weiss, Ty Stanfield, Chad Burdzilauskas. According to Thompson there are two riders still under negotiations and will be announced at a later date.
"We had to restructure the roster," Thompson said. "We also needed to hire riders that can ride in leadership and support roles. We have two more riders who have not signed yet but you can expect that one is an NRC level sprint finisher who is young and the other is an Italian, a good stage racer and lead-out guy. The ink's not dry yet."
Kenda Pro Cycling team is hoping to use its new resources to achieve the success that was out of reach last season. "We want NRC victories in crits and to be competitive in all stage races. We want to be in one or all of the [US] grand tours," Thompson said regarding his vision for next year. "But, we aren't foolish and we don't expect to do well in California. There we want to present our sponsors. We do want a stage win in Missouri. Most importantly, we want to win some bike races. We want to be on the podium."
Kenda Pro Cycling will focus on a full NRC schedule including a possible trip overseas to the Tour of Taiwan. "We just got the NRC stuff yesterday," said Thompson. "I haven't seen the UCI schedule yet but we pretty much will race the entire NRC. Should the invite to the Tour of Taiwan be extended we will start there and then go to California and finish up the spring there."
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