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UCI Continental team 5-hour Energy-Kenda will return next season with its main financial backers intact, but without the team's most dominant rider. Three-time National Race Calendar individual winner Francisco Mancebo has reportedly signed with Sky Dive Dubai, a new Continental team based in the Middle East.
"He gave us a lot of results, for sure," returning 5-hour Energy team director Frankie Andreu told Cyclingnews. "Mancebo has been wanting to get back over to Europe and race over there, and this new team I think will give him that opportunity. And he'll be closer to his family, which is what he wanted. It's a choice that he has been wanting to pursue."
To make up for the loss, Andreu said, he's put together a 2014 roster that can be competitive chasing the overall as well as winning individual stages. Andreu added climbing specialist and general classification threat Chad Beyer from the now-defunct Champion System Pro Continental team, and the addition of former UnitedHealthcare sprinter Jake Keough to the roster should help boost the team's chances in the bunch finishes. Keough won the overall at the Tour of Amercia's Dairyland in 2013, and he has three stage wins in UCI races over the past two years at the Pro Continental level.
"I worked hard to get Jake," Andreu said. "As soon as I saw that he wasn't on that UnitedHealthcare team, I jumped on the phone. I jumped at the chance to be able to bring him with us. I look forward to it."
The sixth-year US-based UCI Continental team will return four riders from the 10-man 2013 roster, including Christian Parrett, James Stemper, David Williams and Bobby Sweeting, who finished sixth overall last year at the Tour of Alberta.
Other new acquisitions include Continental riders Bruno Langlois from Garneau-Quebecor and Gavin Mannion from Bontrager. Former domestic elite riders Jon Hornbeck from Hagens Berman and Sam Bassetti from California Giant-Specialized will complete the 10-rider 2014 roster.
"Bobby Sweeting has steadily been improving for stage wins along with Keough," Andreu said. "And we have some good all-arounders for stage hunting, with Bruno Langlois, Stemper, Williams and Bassetti. We have some really strong guys who can look for individual stages."
Mannion, a young rider that Andreu described as a talented all-arounder who can both climb and time trial, was brought on board to help back up Beyer in the mountains. And Hornbeck is a young climber who will be "getting his legs wet" at the Continental level for the first time.
"I chased after Gavin Mannion hard to be able to bring him in," Andreu said.
With a dominant team leader like Mancebo out of the picture next season, all of the riders will likely get their chances at success.
"That's a point that I brought forward to some of the new riders," Andreu said. "With Paco gone, it's not as one dimensional, and it will give them opportunities to be able to rider for themselves and be able to look for some opportunities. I always try to spread it out between the guys on the team, even this year with Paco. But whoever is the highest guy on GC, that's who you work for, and most times it was him."
Aside from Mancebo, other riders not returning next season include Greg Brandt, Nate English, Max Jenkins, Shawn Milne and Taylor Shelden.
Mancebo, who is under contract with 5-hour Energy through the end of the year, is currently on an Asian swing with team, which is competing in the UCI 2.1 Tour of Taihu Lake November 2-10 and the UCI 1.2 Tour of Nanjing on November 12.
Andreu said the team's 2014 program will be similar to previous years, with an emphasis on the NRC and gaining invitations to the major North American UCI stage races.
"In 2013 we also took a trip to Castilla y Leon in Spain and were successful there." Amdreu said. "So we're going to look to go back to Spain and try to find some races there and maybe some in South America. So if that means we have to miss an NRC race here or there, we're willing to make that sacrifice to try and go to some bigger UCI races."
5-hour Energy p/b Kenda 2014 roster:
Returning: Christian Parrett, Jim Stemper, Bobby Sweeting, David Williams
Additions: Chad Beyer (from Champion System), Jake Keough (from UnitedHealthcare), Bruno Langlois (from Garneau-Quebecor), Gavin Mannion (from Bontrager), Jon Hornbeck (from Hagens Berman), Sam Bassetti (from California Giant-Specialized)
Not returning: Francisco Mancebo (to Skydive Dubai), Greg Brandt, Nate English, Max Jenkins, Shawn Milne, Taylor Shelden