Team Holowesko Partners, the U23 development team for US ProTour squad Garmin-Transitions, has big shoes to fill in 2010 after the success of last year's squad, but the return of key riders coupled with an influx of young talent has the team poised for an encore performance.
The 2009 team dominated the U23 national championships, sweeping the road events with Alex Howes winning both the road race and criterium and Peter Stetina repeating as time trial champion.
Later in the year Danny Summerhill finally claimed an elusive U23 championship in cyclo-cross to add another stars-and-stripes jersey to the 2009 tally.
While Stetina has graduated to the big leagues, riding with Garmin-Transitions this season, Howes and Summerhill return to Team Holowesko Partners as seasoned campaigners, brimming with confidence.
Team Holowesko Partners has completed its team training camp in and around Boulder, Colorado in mid-February, the first gathering of the entire 2010 roster. Despite having snow for the first few days, the 16-rider development team put in the miles as well as conducted team building exercises and cross training.
Morale is high on the team, which welcomed eight new riders to the ranks. Most of the Team Holowesko Partners riders live in the vicinity of Boulder, Colorado, which helps instill camaraderie and a sense of team, "We have a good group of guys and the camp went very well," Howes told Cyclingnews. "With that kind of youth on your team it's impossible not to be motivated."
The team's goals for 2010 are succinctly detailed by director Chann McRae. "It's all about winning championships," McRae told Cyclingnews. "The difference between second and first is big. Most people don't know that to pull off wins is a whole different thing than getting second place."
Not only did the team post impressive results in the U23 ranks in 2009, but they made their presence felt throughout the domestic National Racing Calendar (NRC) going toe-to-toe with professional squads.
Last year's Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin won the team title at Tour of Redlands, at Oregon's Cascade Cycling Classic Peter Stetina earned best young rider and climber jerseys along with Raymond Kreder's points jersey, while Alex Howes soloed to a stage win, what he calls "the biggest of my career", and claimed best young rider and climber jerseys at the Tour of Utah.
The 2010 schedule will provide a similar opportunity for domestic and international competition as the previous year. McRae stated the team will kick off the domestic season in California at the San Dimas stage race and compete throughout the year on the NRC calendar.
Internationally, their riders will compete either as Team Holowesko Partners or as part of the US National Team at such events as the Vuelta Mexico, U23 Paris-Roubaix, U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Olympia's Tour, Tour de Beauce and Tour de l'Avenir.
A critical element of domestic competition in 2010 will be a ban on race radios for all but one of the races the team competed in last year, the sole exception being the Philadelphia International Championship. Team director Chann McRae, however, feels the team will rise to the occasion. "We've had a meeting about the radio ban. I don't want to go into specifics about it, but we do have a plan for the absence of race radios," said McRae.
"We're a development team with young riders who are still learning about tactics, but the radio ban will favor those who race aggressively and race smart and it will be an opportunity for us," added the 22-year-old Howes.
While Team Holowesko Partners can rely on proven champions Alex Howes and Danny Summerhill for results throughout the year, McRae points out that they have several card to play. "We should see Taylor Sheldon and Caleb Fairly have good seasons, although everyone on the team is capable of winning and will have their chances."
Fairly has already notched a few victories prior to the training camp, winning a stage and the overall at the Tour of the Bahamas in January in addition to claiming Southern California's Boulevard Road Race. Teammate Taylor Sheldon also won a stage at the Tour of the Bahamas.
"I felt great, you never know how you're going to ride when you hit warm weather for the first time in the season," said Fairly.
"I'm just going to sit back and let Taylor and Caleb win the races this year," said Howes with a laugh.
Based on Howes' palmares as well as his teammates' ability to race as a team it is likely that the Team Holowesko Partners squad will once again be a force in the U23 ranks and able competition for the country's professional squads in elite events as well.