From its spot at the head of the class among US Continental teams that have snagged the most consecutive Tour of California invitations, Bissell Pro Cycling makes it very clear to its riders what's expected of them when the race rolls out of Santa Rosa on May 13.
"When we go to the Tour of California, we're 100 percent there to be aggressive and race every day like it's its own race," said team director Omer Kem. "That's how we get our sponsors on TV. We have to be in those breakaways, otherwise we're really then just riding. If you go to California and you ride around all week, and your sprinters never really make it to the end on those days that could potentially be a sprint day, you're not going to get invited back. We're there to be aggressive and make the race."
Despite having slowly built a leadout train that has delivered youthful sprinters Paddy Bevin and Eric Young to four NRC bunch-finish wins so far this season, Kem said those daily podium goals take a back seat to animating the action on every road race stage.
"The first goal is to be in the breakaway every day representing Bissell and our other sponsors the best we can," Kem said. "And then we look at how the guys are feeling, and if we get down to the end of one of those stages that could be bunch finishes, then we see what we can do. We've never really had a team that can win stages like the team we've got this year, and it's something we want to take advantage of at California. But we can't make it our emphasis, because we run the risk of there not being a bunch of stages where we have that opportunity."
Kem expects each of his riders to make it into a breakaway at least once over the eight days of racing.
"We have to spread it around," he said. "You can't put the pressure on the same four guys to be in the break everyday, because you're going to start missing the moves. You get two or three days in, and those same four guys are going to get tired, and then you start missing out on the breakaways. That's a really big problem for a Continental team."
The Bissell staff will evaluate each stage and look at the riders who can perform at the end of the stage and the guys who can perform at the beginning, designating one or two riders every day who might have a chance of getting a result.
"We did that well last year," he said, adding that riders Chris Baldwin and Carter Jones would likely get the chance to go for a result on the summit finishes at Big Bear and Mt. Baldy. "I think they've shown they're capable of it. It's just a matter of having all the stars align for them."
Bissell Pro Cycling Team ATOC Roster: Christopher Baldwin (USA), Chris Barton (USA), Patrick Bevin (NZl), Andrew Dahlheim (USA), Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA), Carter Jones (USA), Frank Kevin Pipp (USA), Jeremy Venell (NZl).
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