Jonathan Vaughters and his TIAA-CREF team are not settling for anything less than racing in the ProTour in 2009, a goal the former professional is working very hard to achieve. For 2006 the team has exploded in size, thanks to a new sponsor in Chipotle and a 'man behind the curtain' - an anonymous benefactor that believes this is the best way to secure America's future at the highest levels of cycling. Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski takes a look at what that future may hold.
"There is not much to tell," laughs TIAA-CREF team manager Vaughters, maintaining the anonymity his team owner prefers. "He's a guy who is the team owner and wants to develop the next American Pro Tour team. He wants to enter the Pro Tour in 2009 and feels the best way to do that, as opposed to buying talent, is to actually nurture talent."
"Of course as we get closer to 2009 we will have to start buying certain riders to get us into a position to enter the Pro Tour, but at least for this year and next the priority is to get guys like Danny Pate and Brad Huff up to the point where they are good enough to be on a Pro Tour team, so that we can continue bringing this team up to that level. The core idea is going to remain - helping young American riders progress, as opposed to just buying our way in."
This private source, rumoured to have attempted purchasing the Cincinnati Reds recently, takes a lot of the usual pressure off Vaughters when it comes to securing sponsorship money from year to year in the fiscally-challenging world of cycling. "TIAA-CREF is with us until the end of this year. But I'm imagining that will continue, and if it doesn't we are lucky enough to have private funding so that we can exist in a lot of different forms with a lot of different sponsors.
The team will continue to become larger no matter who the title sponsor is. Chipotle is on until the 2008 Olympics so that is good. TIAA-CREF is the anchor and we would want to replace the anchor - but it's not a do-or-die situation, which is something that I've worked really hard to get over the past three years; where a sponsor can come and go but everything will still function normally," explains Vaughters.
Click here for the full feature.