The USA will have 12 Continental men's teams in 2012, with Team Mountain Khakis returning to professional status after a one-year hiatus. The team was forced to pause and regroup after a secondary sponsor was unable to provide the squad with the funding it had promised for the 2010 season.
According to team manager Adam Myerson, the lack of sponsorship dollars left the team in a tough spot. By using their UCI bank guarantee money the team was able to continue racing that season.
"We had the infrastructure in place so there was no reason to shut down (the team)," said Myerson of the 2010 season.
Myerson said he wanted to do right by the riders the team had hired so they continued to race – but on a pared down schedule. As money wasn't being spent on racing, this allowed the riders to continue to receive the salary promised to them.
In 2011 SmartStop Self Storage arrived as a sponsor, but by the time a contract had been finalized it was too late to register the team with the UCI as a professional squad.
With the new USA Cycling elite team status as an option, Mountain Khakis was able to race as a professionally organized team and participate in all the events that had been on their calendar, but technically as an amateur organization. This downgrade in team status actually saved money.
"We were able to do all the races we normally do and actually even able to give the guys raises," said Myerson proudly.
While there were some advantages for Mountain Khakis to race at the elite team status, team management Pat Raines and Jaime Bennett wanted the team to return to the pro level for 2012 as that's the best way to keep and attract talented riders, as well as guarantee entrance into top-level events.
"They (Raines and Bennett) are the Doug Ellis of the team and made sure no one was owed anything," said Myerson. "We hope that our return to professional status will allow us to be taken as seriously as we think we should and be able to secure more sponsorship."
With this return to a pro status Myerson is looking for the squad to perform. "The team is changing from one that was purely developmental to one that we can expect results. We rehired every guy from this season and they are turning pro with us – I think that's a sign of success."
To grab some spots on the podium Team Mountain Khakis is going to rally around sprinter Luke Keough. This Massachusetts based rider has been a constant top-10 finisher on the criterium circuit. Having a rider with a powerful finishing kick, it's only natural that for 2012 the USA Crits Series and the new USA Cycling national criterium (NCC) calendar are major objectives.
"It's a reachable goal for us and we're looking to win NRC races as well – not just the USA Criterium Series. We're looking to take down some big races – we're not going to be there just for the experience. That's the big difference next year."
2012 Roster: Adam Myerson, Jon Hamblen, Neil Bezdek, Thomas Brown, Luke Keough, Ben Zawacki, Travis Livermon, Jerome Townsend, Shane Kline, Chris Monteleone, Clay Murfet