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Martin Gilbert (Planet Energy) sprints to a stage win in Missouri.
Surprises still in store
Planet Energy is Canada's only Continental team registered with the International Cycling Union (UCI), and it aims to step up to the Professional Continental status by 2011. Next year, the squad will maintain a core group of riders from the previous season, but its focus will expand to include an international array of competition.
"The goal is to reach Pro Continental in 2011 because we want to raise the bar, and we have one year to do it," said Directeur Sportif Steve Bauer. "Time goes fast. The great thing is that we have good partners behind us and some could easily raise the level for us if they wanted too. If we can't do it with in our own group than the network we've built has grown. We're focused and working hard on that."
The fast-growing team will continue with financial sponsors Planet Energy, LivClean, Catalyst Capitol Group, Blackberry and Saputo. Equipment sponsors back on board include Canadian bicycle manufacture Argon 18, Shimano, Giro, Oakley and Carboom are among some eleven supply sponsors in total. According to Bauer, his team might see a significant change with in the display of sponsors space on the jersey, to be announced at a later date.
Further surprises yet to be unveiled could see two, perhaps three new faces added to the squad next year. The core strength of the team will remain in tact with returning riders Martin Gilbert, Kevin LaCombe and Francois Parisien. "The team will be similar to last year, and we will add some," Bauer said. "We are working on the last pieces of the puzzle. Most of the guys that were in the Tour of Missouri will be back."
Planet Energy capped off a successful season at the Tour of Missouri in September when Gilbert won the seventh and final stage. Gilbert's support teammates included Parisien, LaCombe, Ryan Roth, Bruno Langlois, Andrew Randell, Charly Vives and Guillaume Boivin.
The squad will kick off the 2010 season in Cuba followed by Mexico's Tel-Mex and the Tour of Uruguay. They will return to North America for the Redlands Bicycle Classic, Philadelphia International Championships, Tour de Beauce, Canadian National Championships, and Bauer is optimistic that his team will receive an invitation to the Tour of California in May. "We built a good stance for what we are building and with our riders and a performance like we had in Missouri, we are optimistic," Bauer said. "We have not been notified that we can do it but we are working toward that."
Bauer is working on a tentative block of racing in Europe during the month of August to prepare his team for a possible jump up to the Professional Continental ranks the following year. The selected events include the Tour of Ireland and Tour du Limousin provided it receives the respective invitations, along with Tour de L'Ain and the Mi-Aout en Bretagne.
"We are working on getting invitations to good races in Europe for August to evolve the riders to a new level and to prepare for the ProTour races in Quebec and Montreal," Bauer said. "It's too early for those events to say if we have the invitations. But, good performances in the spring and working on our program, we will be optimistic about that."
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