By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
Two time US criterium champion Kirk O'Bee has signed a contract with the Bissell team for 2009, moving from his current team Health Net-Maxxis. This contract and negotiation is a complete opposite to his situation last year, which went well past the eleventh hour and almost saw him sit-out the 2008 season.
"That was the plan to get something signed and sealed, at least before nationals!" he told Cyclingnews about his relief. "I think this is the earliest I have had a contract signed!"
Bissell director Glenn Mitchell told Cyclingnews in our team review feature that he was specifically looking for finishing speed to add to his team. "He's a two-time criterium champion and second in Philly this year," he said. "He has been up there in the one-day races and we will be able to get a little more explosiveness at the finish from him."
With Bissell CEO Mark Bissell taking over the team management, having additional local ties helped O'Bee's case. "And he's from Michigan, as is our title sponsor, so it fits in well for that!" said Mitchell. "I've been a team-mate of his in the past so I am totally aware of his abilities and what he brings to the team. We can tailor it so that he gets more times to be the guy to go to."
O'Bee said he will also bring more experience and maturity to the mostly younger team. "I think I'll have more leadership responsibilities. Right now I am the only finishing guy they have singed up. I know they are looking for some guys to help me but I bring some maturity to the team with the experience I have."