Pros ready to rise to Tour of California challenge

With just a few days remaining until the start of the Tour of California , pro riders are descending...

With just a few days remaining until the start of the Tour of California, pro riders are descending up on California. The opening stage will kick off with a 3.4km prologue time trial in Palo Alto on Sunday.

Few teams can claim such a meteoric rise in the pro ranks as the Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast pro cycling team. A year ago Jonas Carney was grabbing the reigns of a brand new team with a lot of goals. Fast forward 12 months and he is leading many of those same athletes plus some high performance new additions to the Tour of California.

The team's roster, announced Wednesday, includes Andrew Bajadali, winner of the 2007 Redlands Classic and Alex Candelario, overall winner of the Tour de Nez last season. Canadian Keven Lacombe, Dan Bowman and Jonny Sundt will also ride in the Tour, plus three riders injured in 2007 and now racing stronger and faster than ever: Reid Mumford, Justin Spinelli and Nick Waite.

"We're here to make a mark," said Carney from the team's training camp in California. "In one short year we've gone from being an unknown team to competing in the Tour of California. That kind of success really validates what we are doing as a program and a team. Our athletes are ready, highly trained and fired up. We're in California to race not watch."

Joining Carney to help call the shots will be Ken Mills, newly appointed performance manager for the team. Mills will assist with all race logistics and team preparation throughout the Tour and the 2008 race season.

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