After two years of supporting a US men’s domestic elite team that amassed more than 30 victories, Best Buddies International announced today it would “retire” the Best Buddies Racing (opens in new tab) programme, effective at the end of the current 2022 contract.
Best Buddies Racing were most dominant on the criterium racing scene in the US, leading the men’s team standings in the 10-race American Criterium Cup (opens in new tab). The team secured the team title in early September at the final event that was part of the Bommarito Audi Gateway Cup, with two riders, Alfredo Rodriguez and Bryan Gomez, finishing third and fourth overall, respectively, in the individual points competition.
“Best Buddies will retire the racing team and shift its focus to building a more inclusive cycling community by engaging diverse, prospective, and new riders, while promoting our mission of one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” read a statement from management.
They will redirect resources from bike racing to bike riding with an emphasis on a new Ambassador programme that will include Chris Froome (opens in new tab) (Israel-Premier Tech) and Tom Pidcock (opens in new tab)(Ineos Grenadiers). Cyclingnews has learned that the WorldTour duo are scheduled to attend a Best Buddies Challenge event in Miami, Florida on November 18, a 75-mile event limited to 50 riders.
“Over the past two years, the Best Buddies Racing team has created a strong foundation built on inclusion and sheer passion to increase awareness about the Best Buddies mission, while expanding the organization’s efforts to open up the world of cycling to a new generation of riders,” said Anthony K. Shriver, founder, chairman and CEO of Best Buddies International, which was founded in 1989.
“We are incredibly grateful for the teams’ efforts and look forward to the launch of our new professional cyclists Ambassador initiative led by four-time Tour De France champion Chris Froome and Tom Pidcock, in addition to exciting new developments that will complement the Best Buddies Challenges and Best Buddies Breakaway Camps cycling initiatives.”
A Breakaway Camp will be held in Asheville, North Carolina from September 21 to 25 while a Best Buddies Challenge will take place October 15 in Marin, California. There are also cycling adventures that "allow for a more inclusive cycling experience and give our event participants and supporters the opportunity to engage and interact with our pro Ambassadors like Froome and Pidcock." The non-profit organisation said additional details will be announced in the future.
The team grabbed the spotlight for more than bike racing this summer as they were embroiled in controversy after the Salt Lake Criterium in the Utah capital on July 16, the mid-point of the 10-race American Criterium Cup series. Aggressive racing behaviour between riders on Best Buddies Racing and L39ION of Los Angeles erupted into a post-race fist fight and multiple fines and suspensions.
A one-week investigation looked into USA Cycling rules violations by three riders, Michael Hernandez and Robert Sierra of Best Buddies Racing and Justin Williams of L39ION of Los Angeles, for ‘acts of violence among riders’ and unsportsmanlike conduct. Hernandez, the Best Buddies team captain, accepted a reduced three-month suspension and 16 hours of community service, while Sierra accepted a one-month suspension and eight hours of community service. Williams received the original five-month suspension and no community service, after exercising his right to a hearing. The suspensions from USA Cycling events took effect July 25.
“I am extremely proud of what the Best Buddies Racing team was able to accomplish over the past two years,” said Hernandez in a press release. “The team’s on-the-bike success speaks for itself, but what touched my heart the most is how every one of our team members fully embraced the mission of Best Buddies and truly cared about each of the participants who came to support us at the races.”
A spokesperson for Best Buddies International said the riders were free to sign contracts with other teams for the 2023 season. Among the roster this season were Hernandez, who won the amateur criterium national title, collegiate criterium national champion Ada Nsek, and Curtis White, who was the top US men's finisher in 12th place at the 2022 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships.
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