Advantage Benefit-Endeavour pres by Bissel Cycling Team Training Camp, March 24, 2005
This first-year team brings enthusiasm and sheer love of the sport to the pro circuit in 2005. With a strong group of riders and experienced management which is producing a great vibe around the squad, that same pro circuit may be in for a shake up. Ella Lawrence visits their training camp in scenic Fresno, CA.
Okay, If you've ever been to Fresno, you know it's not that scenic. But it was the place for three NRC race weekends in March, which is why the Advantage Benefits/Endeavour pro cycling team chose it as the landing spot for their 2005 spring training camp.
This year marks former Saturn director Tom Schuler's return to professional road team management. Schuler talked a little about how this first-year pro team got its start. "The team began last year as two amateur teams, one in Michigan (Advantage Benefits), and one in Wisconsin (Endeavour)" he says. Schuler managed the Endeavour team in 2004, and when the two teams joined forces, the sponsorship came together with the financing and the support to allow the Advantage Benefits-Endeavour team to go pro.
Sixty percent of the racers are incumbent from one or another of last year's individual elite amateur teams. Three riders come to the team from Endeavour, four are returning from the Advantage Benefits team, and five new racers have been signed up to complete the roster. While the Advantage Benefits-Endeavour squad is in its first year as a pro outfit, it's by no means inexperienced; last year the Endeavour crew was ranked tenth overall in the NRC, finishing ahead of numerous pro teams and landing them the title of the number-one amateur team in the nation.
Co-manager and directeur sportif Robbie Ventura brings 11 years of professional race experience to the team: he spent four years on the Saturn roster, three years with Navigators and raced for US Postal for the last four years of his career. Ventura says of the team's lineup for 2005 - "We have a lot of spectacular racers that are going to get great results. We also have a lot of young guys whose talents haven't yet been defined. They're strong and fast; but finding out where they fit into the equation - criterium racer, road racer, time-trial guy, breakaway guy - that's going to be the fun part."
He continues, "Those Australian track guys really make great bike racers! They're dominating the sprinting in Europe because they really, really know how to race their bicycles." The team includes Australians Karl Menzies and Richard England, and obviously both are already making a very good impression. Of the non-Aussie racers, Ventura says, "Frank Pipp is the defending national champion, and I can't wait to watch him grow this year. Also, Brian Sheedy is going to be a big contender in the GC stuff," he adds.
"In terms of motivation and training, they're GREAT," Ventura says. "Young kids that want to take on the world - these guys are hungry. If we can corral that energy, focus and channel it, it's not only going to be a successful year, the guys are going to have a great time; a great experience in their first year as professionals."
Aussie Karl Menzies is enthusiastic about his first year racing as a professional on an American team. "Racing here's a lot more professional," he says. "The sponsors really get behind the team, there's a lot more support." Menzies continues, "In Australia, it's pretty much individual racing but here it's team racing. It's a lot better."
Under-23 powerhouse Nick Reistad says the team's greatest strength this year will be its unity. "This year we're all coming together quickly and will be standing up for each other when it comes time to throw down," he says. "Team unity, all for one, one for all will be our strength this year. Our team captains Brian Sheedy and Frank Pipp can guide us to success every day on the bike."
Advantage Benefits-Endeavour's co-captain, first-year professional Frank Pipp, says he's ready to make a name for his team in 2005. "Being a new team, you kind of go out to prove yourself," he says. "Maybe sometimes a little bit too much (the team has already had 8 or 9 crashes so far this year) but we have a lot of really talented riders on the squad that people might not know about just yet. We all enjoy riding aggressively and like to be opportunistic. We're just going to see how the races play out and take advantage where we can."
Co-captain Brian Sheedy is no stranger to crashes. "This is my first full-time year since 2002," he muses. "I crashed 13 times that year. I had three concussions, a broken scapula and clavicle, and had 28 screws put in my shoulder. That was my first year as a pro, and I'd only raced two years prior to that. I didn't really know what I was jumping into! I took some time and now I'm ready to jump back into it."
The oldest team member at 28, Sheedy says of his mates, "They're so strong, and have so much energy. They're such good guys. We have a team with the best characters in the country."
He continues, "I want them to get a good experience. We have four espoirs this year, and if we lose them to the National team, then more power to them. I'm an old guy, so my opportunities were gone a long time ago! If these guys go onto something greater, then so be it. We're a development team, essentially. We want to grow into one of the powerhouses and I think we will, but at the same time we're looking out for the young guys."
Advantage Benefits-Endeavour's bikes for 2005 are Felts - SC-1 scandium frames with carbon stays, Reynolds forks, American Classic wheels, Michelin tires, Profile bar stem and seatposts, and Velo saddles. The bikes are equipped with FSA carbon cranks and Shimano drivetrains and levers, weighing in at 16.5 lbs. Ventura adds, "We're really gonna put these bikes to the test. We've got some big, strong, powerful guys and so far the bikes are holding up."
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