Two-time US under-23 national champion Rob Bush and former Chipotle-First Solar teammate Josh Berry, who finished third this year at the Liege-Bastogne-Liege espoirs race, have signed with French Continental team La Pomme Marseille for the 2013 season.
Slipstream Sports released both riders from their 2013 commitments to its Chipotle-sponsored development team last summer and will likely fold the squad due to lack of funding. Bush, who won the championship road race in 2012 and the criterium in 2011, had been with the team for two seasons. Last year was Berry's first with the team.
“Jonathan Vaughters really took the reins, on this, helping with the team,” Berry told Cyclingnews from Arizona, where he has been training for the past six weeks. “I couldn't be happier with the Slipstream program.”
Bush, 22, of Louisville, Kentucky, has been racing on the road since adolescence. He competed with the Texas Roadhouse amateur team and the Marian College squad before signing with Kenda-GearGrinder, a UCI Continental team, in 2010.
He rode with Chipotle for the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and he also represented the US on the U23 national team, finishing fourth in the 2012 U23 Paris-Roubaix. He scored two top-10 finishes at the Rutas de America last season, and in 2011 he won stages at the Tour de Beauce and the Cascade Cycling Classic.
Berry, 22, of Sun Valley, Idaho, started out racing in BMX, mountain biking and cyclo-cross, but his talent quickly spilled over onto the road. He signed with the UCI Continental team OUCH-Bahati Foundation in 2010, but he was severely injured in an early season head-on collision with a truck while training in Portland, Oregon, and he missed most of that season. He returned to the road in 2011 with the RealCyclist.com team of National Race Calendar overall winner Francisco Mancebo.
“I joined RealCyclist and they didn't expect much since I was coming back from injury,” Berry said. “I needed a year just to recover and go out and show myself in the NRC.”
Berry eventually made the breakaway at the USPRO road race got the attention of Slipstream North American director Chann McRae. He signed with Chipotle-First Solar in 2012 and spent most of the year racing with the team in Europe. Berry grabbed top-10 finishes at the Coppa delle Nazioni and the Circuit des Ardennes, and he also raced with the US U23 national team and finished third in the 2012 U23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege behind teammate Ian Boswell, who signed a three-year deal with Team Sky this year.
But Berry's 2012 season also ended abruptly during stage one of the Baby Giro when a chain ring sliced through the patella tendon in his right knee. While Berry recovered in hospital, his US teammate Joe Dombrowski went on to win the race and signed with Team Sky for 2013. Berry would also like to follow that path to the ProTour level, but first he needs to put together a complete, healthy season.
“I know for myself what I need to make the next step is to have a real, full season,” he said. “You know I got hurt with Bahati, and I never really got to race with them. With RealCyclist I was able to get a good solid season. It ended early but I went to Belgium to race kermeses for two months to finish it off. And then this year I was on amazing form, and I really believe I could have own a lot of races.”
Next season will mark the second year Team La Pomme Marseille has had UCI Continental team status. The team, which competes in the UCI Europe Tour, was previously a French National Division 1 squad. The current pro team is the elite wing of a 38-year-old cycling club started by Serge Bolley, a former professional cyclist and teammate to Jacques Anquetil and Luis Ocana.
“We'll mainly be doing races in France,” Berry said. “My first focus is Tour de [Mediterranean]. There should be some ProTour teams there, and I'd really like to show myself. Then the Criterium Internationale is the next one I'll focus on.”
Berry said he will travel to the French island of Corsica in the beginning of January for the first team training camp. He said he will initially settle near the team base in Marseille, although he hopes to venture over to Nice, where Boswell and Dombroswki live, for some training and to check out the possibility of living there. But before he gets too comfortable in his new arrangement, he wants to repay the faith that both past and future employers have shown in him.
“I'm really grateful for the team backing me after a serious injury,” he said. “There were some people who were supporting me who kind of disappeared after the injury, but Slipstream really stood behind me, and this team is taking its chance by signing me. So I'm really looking forward to proving myself and thanking them by hopefully winning some races.”
Team La Pomme Marseille 2013 Roster:
Benjamin Giraud (FRA)
Thomas Vaubourzeix (FRA)
Yannick Martinez (FRA)
Gregory Tarride (FRA)
Thomas Rostollan (FRA) Elite 2
Antoine Lavieu (FRA) Elite 2
Yoann Paillot (FRA) Elite 2
Justin Jules (FRA) Veranda Curtains U
Jose Goncalves (POR) ONDA Boavista
Christopher Jennings (RSA) Rapha Condor
Jason Bakke (RSA) Team Bonitas
Julien Antomarchi (FRA) TT1 Sanofi
Rob Bush (USA) Chipotle-First Solar Development Team
Josh Berry (USA) Chipotle-First Solar Development Team