Missing out on another invitation to a big US race, this time the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado, has left Airgas-Safeway general manager Chris Johnson disappointed but motivated to keep his fledgling Continental team growing.
The team is currently competing at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, where team leader Chris Horner has finished second the past two years. Johnson told Cyclingnews his greatest disappointment is for the team sponsors.
“I think the big disappointment is really for the sponsors, Safeway and particularly Airgas,” he said. “You know Airgas over the last three years has really stepped up to support the growth of American cycling, and for the American races to not recognize that and their contribution is really disappointing.”
The team stepped up its game for the Utah race, Johnson said, adding more staff and two Porsche Panamera team cars.
“Hopefully in the future, races like California and Colorado will recognize that we want to be involved in that stuff,” Johnson said.
“We have to stay motivated and keep moving on. But the big disappointment is for the companies. Both Airgas and Safeway have locations throughout Colorado. So not to be able to engage those huge companies is a loss for the race and it really is just a loss for American cycling because we need national brands like that just to be able to grow the sport.”
With many US teams facing uncertain sponsorship futures, Johnson said it “would be nice” if the big US races worked with the teams in the US.
One surprise invitation to the Colorado race was the Israel Cycling Academy that Peter Sagan supports. Johnson said Airgas-Safeway raced with the team at the Tour d’Azerbaidjan earlier this year and he wishes them luck at the USA Pro Challenge.
“We wish we were there racing with them,” he said.
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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.
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