While the 20 ProTour teams have reaped the benefits of the new ProTour structure and the various Continental Teams now enjoy their own calendar of racing, it is the Pro Continental Teams who have arguably undergone the most significant change in 2005. Anthony Tan spoke with Navigators Insurance team manager Ed Beamon, whose team has felt the full force of the UCI's restructure of professional cycling.
In the space of a year, the gap between what used to be called Division I and Division II squads appears to have widened. This season, the 24 Pro Continental Teams received few opportunities to compete with those in cycling's major league, and when they did, it was hard to be competitive.
Of course, there were exceptions. Colombia-Selle Italia enjoyed their best season to date, winning the mountains and combativity classifications, a stage and a place on the final podium at the Giro d'Italia with flyweight Jose Rujano (the Venezuelan also finishing second at the Tour de Langkawi), as well as another two Giro stages courtesy of Colombian Ivan Parra. After next year's Tour of Italy, however, Rujano will join Quick.Step. Then there's Ag2R-Prévoyance, who have seemingly done enough to earn themselves a ProTour place in 2006; that said, they're probably the only Pro Continental Team with a budget capable of signing riders like Francisco Mancebo and Christophe Moreau without going broke.
Ed Beamon, team manager of Navigators Insurance, the only American-based Pro Continental Team, told Cyclingnews of his experience during the team's stay in Europe this year, centred around Belgium and Italy this spring. "I think it's tough for a Pro Continental team to show up to some of those events in the early spring and be competitive against ProTour teams," he said.
"Each of those teams has half a dozen guys whose whole season is based on those first three months and the smaller teams are basically trying to figure out how to hold their form through nine months of racing because they don't have 30 guys on their roster."
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