Luke Keough (Team Mountain Khakis-SmartStop) congratulated by Thomas Brown (R) & Jamie Bennett
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Continental team hopes to translate success into sponsorship
Just hours prior to the start of the Terrapin Twilight criterium in Athens, Georgia, Cyclingnews casually asked the Team Mountain Khakis-SmartStop rider/manager Adam Myerson how he was feeling. He replied that he was feeling quite amorous – a good indicator according to him that his form, as well as the team's, was good.
With two back to back victories in the USA CRITS series, Athens Terrapin Twilight and Historic Roswell Criterium, Myerson's squad is starting to click.
In previous years the team's budget had forced it to limit their racing campaign to mostly the East coast. But this year team owners Pat Raines and Jaime Bennett were able to step the team up.
"We hope that our return to professional status will allow us to be taken as seriously as we think we should, and be able to secure more sponsorship," said Myerson last November to Cyclingnews.
And due to the team's limited resources Myerson was the first to admit that in the past their race strategy reflected that. "We observe, participate, but make sure it doesn't get away from us. We look for opportunities." But those who were at this past weekend's USA CRITS series noticed a whole different approach.
"The first month of the season I had hoped the team would have picked up where they left off last year and they wouldn't need me out there with them at all," explained Myerson just after Luke Keough's victory in Athens. "With the reduced roster of only six riders (new rule stipulating that each team can only enter up to six riders in a National Criterium Calendar event) it was an opportunity for me to take a little bit of time after the cyclo-cross season to get into shape and give some of the other guys a chance."
And in the beginning of the season the squad did just that, taking a win in the Delray Beach Criterium in Florida with Ben Zawacki. But after that Myerson said the team was slipping back into bad habits. Myerson points to the Presbyterian Invitational Criterium in Charlotte, North Carolina. The riders were no longer part of the breaks and were reactive rather than proactive.
As a result, he pulled himself off the bench and suited up for the Sunny King Criterium. "I pulled some people because I needed to straighten things out. The guys forgot that it is six equal guys and we're trying to win the race and keep ourselves from being vulnerable," said Myerson.
With Myerson added to the Sunny King criterium roster the team was aggressive and was featured in the breaks. However, their designated sprinter Luke Keough just didn't have the legs that night and he finished fifth. Despite this, Myserson was pleased with certain aspects of that result.
"We are aggressive and all five guys are committed to Luke. We go into moves all day long so we can line it up for him in the finish because we believe he is, at 20 years old, the fastest guy in America."
Myerson credits the team's turnabout due to the leadership he needed to provide in those races.
"The guys were lacking the leadership, someone to answer to, and to reinforce the basic core principles and style. All six guys deserved to be there, but I had to pull someone because they weren't getting it done without supervision."
At the Terrapin Twilight Criterium in Athens, Georgia that aggressive style returned. The result was a tight victory over Kenda/5 Hour Energy's John Murphy.
This attacking attitude was again evident in the following day's criterium in Roswell, Georgia.
Always at the front, Mountain Khakis had gone from a team that covered moves to making moves – shown by Zawacki taking the win in a late breakaway.
With a full calendar with several races overlapping each other, Myerson is relying on teammate Neil Bezdek, who he calls his "co-captain", to be the leader when the squad is split.
"He's one of the older guys at 28, most of the others are between 20 and 24, so he's a little more mature, responsible and well organized. He's the guy I will count on to hold down the fort, from a logistic standpoint, when I'm not around."
With Speed Week almost completed you can be assured that Team Mountain Khakis will continue to be aggressive at races in the future.
"I know these guys can win races. I'm not pedaling their bikes for them," said Myerson. "I'm teaching them to race bikes in a certain style and they got a little off-track and I'm putting them back and the past three races we've gotten results from it."