Bissell Pro Cycling added considerable depth to its stage racing roster this week by signing ProTour veterans Jason McCartney and Patrick McCarty, who will join three other new additions and seven returning riders to make up the 2013 UCI Continental squad.
Returning from the 2012 team are road captains Frank Pipp, Chris Baldwin and Jeremy Vennell. They'll be joined by Bissell young guns Paddy Bevin, Andrew Dahlheim, Carter Jones and Julian Kyer, who signed with the team near the end of the 2012 season. New riders Phil Gaimon, Tommy Nankervis and Michael Torckler, along with McCartney and McCarty, will complete the 12-rider roster.
Although longtime Bissell leader Ben Jacques-Maynes departed for Jamis-Sutter Home after the end of the 2012 season, the addition of McCartney, McCarty and Gaimon could make 2013 one of the deepest and strongest Bissell line-ups yet, at least that's the hope of team director Omer Kem, who told Cyclingnews that the team was trying to add more depth.
“That's what we really wanted,” Kem said. “We didn't think that changing the roster was necessarily going to mean more NRC wins. We've already won more races than any other Continental team at the NRC level in 2012, but we wanted more depth at the big races: Tour of California, Tour of Utah and [USA Pro Challenge].”
Newcomers shake up roster
McCartney, 39, represented the US in two Olympic road races and spent seven years, from 2005 through 2011, at the ProTour level with Discovery Channel, Saxo Bank and RadioShack. His long list of results includes third overall at the 2007 Amgen Tour of California, mountain classification wins at both the Tour of California and Tour of Georgia, and a stage win at the Vuelta España. He rode the 2012 season with UnitedHealthcare, a Pro Continental team, where he battled illness for much of the year but rebounded with a stage win at the UCI 2.1 Tour of Portugal. Kem envisions a similar result for McCartney in the Bissell colors.
“A guy like McCartney, if he gets back to 100 percent health, which he really wasn't for a large part of last year – he really didn't come good until August and then he wins a stage at Tour of Portugal, well that's not an easy race – so a stage at California, a stage at Utah, a stage at Colorado, that would be huge for us,” Kem said.
Fellow newcomer McCarty, who also had a difficult 2012 season while recovering from a lingering illness, is a refugee from Spidertech-C10, the Canadian Pro Continental team that abruptly suspended operations for 2013. The 30-year-old rode three ProTour seasons with US Postal, Discovery Channel and Phonak before moving to Jonathan Vaughters' Slipstream program for two years. He moved to Spidertech in 2011.
Gaimon, 26, won the 2012 Redlands Bicycle Classic during his third season with Kenda/5-Hour Energy. He took the opening uphill time trial at Redlands and defended his lead throughout the race from attacks by Competitive Cyclist's Francisco Mancebo and future teammate Bevin, who won three stages and eventually took second overall. Gaimon also finished fourth at the Cascade Cycling Classic and is champing at the bit for an opportunity to race in the country's three big UCI races after his Kenda squad was shut out of invitations last year.
“Gaimon, you know, he didn't really have a chance to show himself last year in those races,” Kem said. “But with his results at Redlands and at Cascade, he can definitely race at the Tour of California or Tour of Colorado level.”
The team signed Gaimon back in August, and McCarty contacted Baldwin, a former teammate on the OUCH-Maxxis team, about a spot immediately upon learning in October that Spidertech was suspending operations. UnitedHealthcare's McCartney, on the other hand, came onto Bissell's radar only in the past couple of weeks.
“We've obviously known him as a rider as long as he's been racing since back in the early 2000s when he was riding domestically,” Kem said. “He also knew Mark Bissell from his time on Discovery Channel, when Bissell was a sponsor of the team at that point. We definitely were interested, and it mostly happened in the last few weeks that we were able to pull it all together.”
Nankervis, a 30-year-old Australian who rode for Competitive Cyclist the past two seasons, is a fast finisher who should add some firepower for criteriums and road race sprints while providing a final lead out for Bevin. Nankervis also rode for the team in 2007 when it was Priority Health, so he was a known factor.
“The general consensus was we needed a big strong fast guy to be the last guy in front of Bevin, and I think Tommy fits that bill exactly,” Kem said. “I think he'll have some chances to win some races, too. Paddy can't be everywhere at once.”
Torckler, a 24-year-old from New Zealand, rode the past two seasons with Pure Black Racing. He initially signed with Bissell in June after winning the Tour of Borneo and finishing 19th overall at the Tour de Beauce. He planned to ride the Tour of Utah and USA Pro Challenge with the team but was injured in a head-on collision with an errant automobile while training in California and had to put those plans on hold. The solid GC racer with a knack for the time trials has been recovering at home since the crash and appears to be back on track.
“Obviously, the roster is pretty stacked at this point,” Kem said. “But I think Torckler, with what he showed at Southland, is continuing to improve over the New Zealand summer, and when he comes here I think he's going to impress some people, for sure.”
Road captains remain, young talent coming of age
In Pipp, Baldwin and Vennell, the team has retained a core group of experienced road captains who can call the shots on the fly and lead by example. Pipp, 35, is best suited for the fast finishes, while Baldwin, 37, excels in time trials and going uphill. Vennell, 32, is a solid all-arounder who won the jersey for most aggressive rider at the 2012 Tour of California.
“Those are going to be my two guys who are the captains on the road,” Kem said of Pipp and Baldwin. “And they are kind of suited to different races, so it makes it easy to go anywhere and trust that Frank or Chris are going to make the right decisions. Vennell is Mister Consistent time triallist and a fantastic teammate. He can be there on the climbing days. He can be there in the breakaways. He can be there in the lead-out. He's a complete rider.”
Kem hopes the roster of proven, experienced talent and an intact leadership group will provide an opportunity for developing riders to flourish. Carter Jones, 23, has been knocking at the door for several seasons with the USA Cycling national team and at the Continental level, but Kem believes 2013 will be his breakout year.
“Carter is definitely somebody who wants to have success and grow to the WorldTour level,” Kem said. “And next year, in terms of his training and everything, he's got a lot of confidence coming into the season, and that's going to pay dividends for him. Carter could win an NRC stage race this year. We have the team to help him do it. It will be Carter racing against Gaimon, racing against Baldwin, racing against McCarty. And probably all of them racing against [2012 NRC individual winner] Francisco Mancebo.”
Kem is also hoping to see continued success for Bevin, the 21-year-old Kiwi fastman who got off to a blazing start in 2012, ripping off a string of early wins, including three stages at Redlands, before he was slowed by a nagging back injury that he suffered while racing in Europe with the national team.
Dahlheim, 24, earned his third year on the team by proving himself to be a valuable domestique and morale-booster. “He's a good guy to have,” Kem said. “You need guys who are good characters. Everybody likes him, and he does his job, absolutely, no questions asked. He's a good solid rider, and he's going to incorporate into the lead-out well with Nankervis and Pipp.”
Kyer, 24, rode at the Continental level previously with Trek-Livestrong and Kelly Benefit Strategies. He won the US Elite national time trial and road race this year with the Juwi Solar amateur squad before signing with Bissell. Aside from racing the Tour of Utah and USA Pro Cycling Challenge with the team last year, he also journeyed to New Zealand with a small squad in October to race the Tour of the Southland.
Bissell Pro Cycling will once again ride Pinarello in 2013, racing on the Dogma 65.1 Think 2. The bikes will be outfitted with Campagnolo Record groupsets, and select riders will be on Record EPS. The team will also ride Campagnolo wheels next season. The team has added news sponsors, including Spidertech, Giro, Chamois Butt’r, Esoles, and GoSoap. Continuing sponsors include Giordana, First Endurance, Speedplay, Vredestein, SRM, MOst, Blackburn, Merrell, K Edge, Finishline, Feedback Sports and Stuffitts.
Bissell Homecare will continue as the team's title sponsor for the sixth consecutive year. Advantage Benefits, EmploymentGroup and Emerald Spas return as primary sponsors.
2013 Bissell Pro Cycling Roster:
Julian Kyer (signed Aug. 2012)
Jason McCartney – from UnitedHealthcare
Patrick McCarty – from Spidertech-C10
Phil Gaimon – from Kenda/5-Hour Energy
Tommy Nankervis – from Competitive Cyclist
Michael Torckler – from Pure Black Racing