Champion System Pro Cycling Team's first foray into the European racing scene has been nothing short of a learning experience, General Manager Ed Beamon said.
Asia's first pro continental team is readying for a pair of Belgian one-day races – Scheldeprijs on Wednesday and GP Pino Cerami on Thursday – followed by Rund um Köln in Germany next Monday. For GP Pino Cerami, the Champion System provisional roster includes five riders from Asia: Kun Jiang and Jiao Pengda of China, Anuar Manan and Adiq Othman of Malaysia, Mart Ojavee of Estonia and Kin San Wu of Hong Kong.
Beamon said Scheldeprijs, which is considered the unofficial "world championship for sprinters" provides an opportunity for Aaron Kemps. The Australian was a team-best 12th on the final road stage of Three Days de Panne last week and said he has been getting close to a breakthrough result.
"The boys are taking good care of me but we’ve just been coming up a little short," Kemps said. "It takes time with a new team and getting the feel of the bunch finish. These sprints are crazy and Matthias [Friedemann] and I have to work hard to stay together. But Clinton [Avery] had a great ride in Stage 3 of De Panne so it seems he’s healthy again. With him and Matthias in the train, I think we can give it a good crack Wednesday."
Friedemann, who is also part of the Rund um Köln roster, has been one of Champion System's most consistent riders, with recent top 25 finishes at Nokere Koerse (14th), Ronde van Drenthe (19th) and the Handzame Classic (22nd). The German said he is finally shaking off the effects of a sickness that slowed him at De Panne.
"I feel better and I’m really motivated to help Aaron at the finish in Schedleprijs," he said. "Of course Köln is a big race for me as it is the team’s first event in my home country. I’m really looking forward to it and I think we have a strong team."
Champion System will also bring Ojavee, the Estonian national champion, to the start line for all three races while Craig Lewis will race for the first time in Europe since his crash at the Giro d'Italia last year. The American stage racing specialist finished 18th at the Tour de Langkawi last month.
Beamon said Schedleprijs provides an opportunity for the Champion System team to showcase its sprint train.
"We’ve been working on the sprint dynamic in each race and slowly getting it better," he said. "Aaron has very good form and we add Anuar Manan to the mix again this week. With Clinton and Mart healthy again, I think we can take good care of Aaron and give him good position. Scheldeprijs is a favorite of mine and we’d really like to see a good result here. But I know the competition is always very high and we’ll have to pay attention as it’s always possible for a big split in that race."
Champion System Cycling Team rosters -
Scheldeprijs: Clinton Avery, Matthias Friedemann, Gorik Gardeyn, Kun Jiang, Aaron Kemps, Anuar Manan, Mart Ojavee, Kin San Wu.
GP Pino Cerami: Joris Boillet, William Clarke, Kun Jiang, Anuar Manan, Mart Ojavee, Adiq Othman, Jiao Pengda, Kin San Wu.
Rund um Köln: Clinton Avery, Will Clarke, Matthias Friedemann, Gorik Gardeyn, Aaron Kemps, Craig Lewis, Anuar Manan, Mart Ojavee.