Jamis-Sutter Home is proof that winning the National Racing Calendar (NRC) doesn't guarantee a start at America's most prestigious race, the Amgen Tour of California. Race organiser AEG Sports recently announced the 16 invited teams and the nation's number one ranked squad was no where to be found.
"I know it's difficult for the organisers to choose the teams and they do not have an easy job but, I am surprised that Jamis-Sutter Home was not invited," said the outfit's directeur sportif Sebastian Alexandre. "I think after the amazing 2009 season we had and the great start we are having to 2010, it's a disappointment for me and the riders on our squad that we were not selected."
"We were definitely hoping to race the Tour of California as we have in past years," he added. "It is the biggest race in the US and attracts the world's top teams. We have a tremendous team and I believe we deserved to be part of it."
Medalist Sports was largely responsible in selecting the 16 teams that were invited to compete in the race. Managing partner at Medalist Sports, Jim Birrell, noted the difficulty in selecting teams based on the NRC ranking.
"It's a challenge that we face every year and every tour that we are a part of," said Birrell. "The race is invitation only and there are only so many slots available but so many great teams domestically and internationally. We have to look at all of the teams objectively.
"It's hard in how teams are ranked by the NRC level because not ever team races every NRC race and not every rider is at every NRC race," he added. "I don't know what the solution is to make it fair and equitable across the board. Unfortunately, while Jamis-Sutter Home won the NRC racing last year, the team that earned that ranking lost some of its leadership riders."
The UCI Continental team captured the NRC overall team classification title by virtue of winning 12 of the series' stages and races along with 17 podium places. The squad also won three UCI events in 2009. Its sprinter Lucas Sebastian Haedo placed second in the individual classification and the team place five riders inside the top ten.
"To win the NRC like we did is something that all US teams strive for," continued Alexandre. "But even beyond the NRC win, Jamis-Sutter Home has a lot to be proud of in terms of the way the team has raced over the last few years. This season, our team name changed from Colavita-Sutter Home presented by Cooking Light to Jamis-Sutter Home presented by Colavita but that's the only thing that's really different.
"We have the same staff and management that we started with back in 2003. We've always taken great pride in the quality of our riders and this season we have three absolute superstars on our roster in Ivan Dominguez, Alejandro Borrajo, and Luis Amaran."
Riders that did not return to the team this year include the aforementioned Haedo, Kyle Wamsley, Anthony Colby, Luca Damiani and Davide Frattini. Alexandre speculated that losing Haedo might have been a factor in his team not receiving an invitation to the Tour of California.
Haedo moved up to ProTour team Saxo Bank but was replaced with the highly decorated Ivan Dominguez (pictured above, left) who last year split his season between the ProTour team Fuji-Servetto and US-based Rock Racing.
Alexandre noted that Dominguez is one of three riders to have won stages in the three biggest American stage races, including the Tour of California, the former Tour de Georgia and Tour of Missouri. Levi Leipheimer and Juan Jose Haedo are the other two. He believes the team he has this year is qualified to participate in the Tour of California.
"Ivan has sprinted side by side with the best sprinters in the world," said Alexandre. "Alejandro Borrajo has also proved that he is an outstanding sprinter on the road. At the same time, he's a great team player, having worked for Sebastian Haedo in the second part of last season to try to win the NRC as a team and in the individual ranking. So he sacrificed many times to pursue the team goal. Luis Amaran is one of the three or four strongest riders in the US peloton right now. He is definitely a rider that everyone is watching.
"I don't think that Sebastian leaving made a big change to our team because we were a strong team, and Sebastian was the winning face," he added. "We could have won as many races with Alejandro [Borrajo] just by changing their roles in the final sprint. Just because Sebastian left doesn't mean that we have a completely different team. We also signed Ivan to try to replace Sebastian."
There are 16 teams invited to participate in the Amgen Tour of California, including seven ProTour teams in RadioShack, Garmin-Transitions, Saxo Bank, Rabobank, Quick Step, Liquigas-Doimo and HTC-Columbia. Professional Continental teams include Cervélo TestTeam and BMC Racing Team along with Continental squads UnitedHealthcare, Team Type 1, Fly V Australia, Jelly Belly, Kelly Benefit Strategies and Bissell.
"I congratulate all the US squads selected for this year's Tour of California," said Alexandre. "And I look forward to lining up with them at upcoming races this season."
Jamis-Sutter Home will now focus on competing in the USA Crit Speed Week Series, Tour of the Gila, Joe Martin Stage Race, TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championships, Nature Valley Grand Prix, Clarendon Cup, Cascade Cycling Classic and the Tour of Elk Grove among others.
When asked if not receiving an invitation to the Tour of California lessens the morale of the riders on his team, Alexandre said, "No, this is a winning team, we like to win. If we were to go to the Tour of California we would've tried to win. If we don't go to that race but to another, we will try to win there too. We like to go to the race and win and that is what we are going to keep on doing."