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Gallery: Jelly Belly team begins 13th season

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Menso De Jong heads the train for the Jelly Belly squad with two laps to go in an early season criterium in Ontario. DS Danny Van Haute used the race to test leadout training implemented earlier in camp.

Menso De Jong heads the train for the Jelly Belly squad with two laps to go in an early season criterium in Ontario. DS Danny Van Haute used the race to test leadout training implemented earlier in camp. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Director Danny Van Haute was a member of the 1984 Olympic team and the 7-11 road team.

Director Danny Van Haute was a member of the 1984 Olympic team and the 7-11 road team. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Time Trial training day allows the riders to fine-tune their position and equipment choice on bikes they'll see rarely during the year.

Time Trial training day allows the riders to fine-tune their position and equipment choice on bikes they'll see rarely during the year. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Rider Alex Hagman looks over a frame with Danny Van Haute during a team visit to bike sponsor Focus. Focus is headquartered in the US near the training camp hotel.

Rider Alex Hagman looks over a frame with Danny Van Haute during a team visit to bike sponsor Focus. Focus is headquartered in the US near the training camp hotel. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Scott Stewart, Ralf Medlaff and Danny Van Haute during a team-building tug-of-war at the hotel pool. Losers from the first round were forced to wear wigs.

Scott Stewart, Ralf Medlaff and Danny Van Haute during a team-building tug-of-war at the hotel pool. Losers from the first round were forced to wear wigs. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Riders give another some help in keeping up on the climb

Riders give another some help in keeping up on the climb (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Canadian Nic Hamilton following the team's training race.

Canadian Nic Hamilton following the team's training race. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Spare parts get packed for Tour of Taiwan. The team will make as many as five trips to Asia this year alone, which also benefits Jelly Belly's global presence.

Spare parts get packed for Tour of Taiwan. The team will make as many as five trips to Asia this year alone, which also benefits Jelly Belly's global presence. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Sean Mazich heads out of his hotel room shortly before a daily training ride. Training camp marks the beginning of a long season of hotel stays for the eleven-member team, ranging from luxury to much less so.

Sean Mazich heads out of his hotel room shortly before a daily training ride. Training camp marks the beginning of a long season of hotel stays for the eleven-member team, ranging from luxury to much less so. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Danny Van Haute gives pre-ride instructions to the team before another trip to the foothills northeast of San Diego.

Danny Van Haute gives pre-ride instructions to the team before another trip to the foothills northeast of San Diego. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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DT Swiss wheels of every type will get plenty of use during the season. All are equipped with Kenda tires.

DT Swiss wheels of every type will get plenty of use during the season. All are equipped with Kenda tires. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Luis Davilla points to a measurement location on Emerson Oronte's time trial bike.

Luis Davilla points to a measurement location on Emerson Oronte's time trial bike. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Mechanic Ralf Medlaff takes a late lunch with leftovers from the previous night's team dinner. As the sole mechanic at camp, Medlaff works long hours in the parking lot working on training camp bikes and preparing for the team's upcoming trip to Tour of Taiwan.

Mechanic Ralf Medlaff takes a late lunch with leftovers from the previous night's team dinner. As the sole mechanic at camp, Medlaff works long hours in the parking lot working on training camp bikes and preparing for the team's upcoming trip to Tour of Taiwan. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Speedplay pedal's inventor and president Richard Byrne in his office, surrounded by historic and rare cycling parts, including nearly every significant pedal in the history of the bicycle.

Speedplay pedal's inventor and president Richard Byrne in his office, surrounded by historic and rare cycling parts, including nearly every significant pedal in the history of the bicycle. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Riders prepare to depart Pannikin Bakery, a favorite stop on Highway 1.

Riders prepare to depart Pannikin Bakery, a favorite stop on Highway 1. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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The Jelly Belly team will be riding Focus Izalco carbon-framed bikes equipped with SRAM Red and DT Swiss wheels.

The Jelly Belly team will be riding Focus Izalco carbon-framed bikes equipped with SRAM Red and DT Swiss wheels. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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The Jelly Belly team color scheme is exclusive to the team.

The Jelly Belly team color scheme is exclusive to the team. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Ralf Medlaff stores bikes at the end of another training day.

Ralf Medlaff stores bikes at the end of another training day. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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The Jelly Belly team has a morning meeting with sports psychologist Jason Galea. Galea reinforced the importance of committing to goals.

The Jelly Belly team has a morning meeting with sports psychologist Jason Galea. Galea reinforced the importance of committing to goals. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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The Jelly Belly team makes regular use of the title sponsor's product, whether during rides or gifts to fans.

The Jelly Belly team makes regular use of the title sponsor's product, whether during rides or gifts to fans. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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The San Diego area provides certain advantages for a training camp, including weather and spectacular coastal riding.

The San Diego area provides certain advantages for a training camp, including weather and spectacular coastal riding. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Training camp rides range from two hours to almost six, including one climb up Palomar outside San Diego.

Training camp rides range from two hours to almost six, including one climb up Palomar outside San Diego. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Speedplay pedal inventor Richard Byrne shows the Jelly Belly team around his company's manufacturing area during a training ride break. Speedplay is one of many cycling brands located in the San Diego area.

Speedplay pedal inventor Richard Byrne shows the Jelly Belly team around his company's manufacturing area during a training ride break. Speedplay is one of many cycling brands located in the San Diego area. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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The team car carries bikes to an early-season criterium in southern California, a race used as a test lab for team leadout training.

The team car carries bikes to an early-season criterium in southern California, a race used as a test lab for team leadout training. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)

The Jelly Belly presented by Kenda cycling team passes a significant milestone as it enters the 2012 season. This is the team's thirteenth year with the same title sponsor, and with a new two-year commitment, the team is set to have the longest running contiguous sponsorship in the US pro peloton. This year it ties the now-defunct Navigators Cycling Team, which ran 13 seasons from 1995 to 2007.

Yet this development team, with a service course guarded by a trio of hens and an elderly Labrador in the back yard of director Danny Van Haute's long-time San Marcos residence, routinely places riders in the breakaways of the biggest races it enters, right alongside riders from WorldTour teams. Focus, the team's bike sponsor, features an image in its catalog of a Jelly Belly rider setting tempo with the UCI World Road Champion and other marquee riders in a dramatic break from the 2011 Amgen Tour of California.

Van Haute credits a sensible sponsorship model and a consistent, if modest, team mission that keeps his development team punching above its weight at the biggest races in the US.

"My philosophy is (about) making these riders better," Van Haute says of his objective held since 2000. "That's what we are, a development team. We lose guys every two years. But losing guys to a Pro Continental or WorldTour team, that's a success for the Jelly Belly program. ... Losing a guy to another Continental team, I have a real problem with that." But it's a scenario which rarely occurs.

The team will have plenty of work ahead this season: it is running lean with eleven riders, as just four riders were brought in to replace six outgoing. Van Haute says he does not planning any additions for the rest of the season.

The new additions are Luis Davila from Mexico, power-house mountain bike racer Menso De Jong, Scott Stewart from team Type 1, and Ricardo Van der Velde, who brings solid European experience from his time with Garmin and the Belgian Donckers Koffie squad.

Depending on the race, leadership chores will fall to Van der Velde, or either of returning members Sean Mazich or sprinter Brad Huff. Davila is likely the best climber on the squad, but is a scrappy rider even in the midst of the tree trunk-legged SoCal pro 1-2 crit crowd, as he proved in a training race in Ontario recently, moving through the field at will. The 6'4" De Jong will serve well on the front setting tempo, churning 177.5mm crank arms, but is bound to be a factor on the long climbs as well.

Van Haute, a veteran of the inaugural 7-11 team and member of the 1984 Olympic team, knows exposure is as significant as a win for sponsors. "We had riders in the break in five stages at Tour of California, with [television commentator] Phil Liggett saying Jelly Belly on television all afternoon."

"We're a spectator-friendly team. We get to the stage an hour and a half before the race and hand out Jelly Belly Beans and autographs. And the fans love it."

Sometimes too much. Van Haute recalls an experience from one of the team's many trips to Asia, "I almost started a riot in China one year handing out Sport Beans, the crowd got bigger and bigger until the Chinese police came over, told me to stop, and pushed back the crowd."

Van Haute was the first US director to take his team to Asia, where tougher racing, solid prize lists and promoters willing to help with travel made for an easy choice when building the team's schedule. It helps with the mission of building a better rider and provides significant exposure for the global Jelly Belly brand. "If you get into races here in the US like the Amgen Tour of California you have to do bigger races. The RadioShacks of the world are doing 200k races every weekend and we'd be doing criteriums. I don't think you can prepare the team by doing criteriums six weeks prior to the Tour of California."

This year, the Bean Team is likely to have as many as five separate trips to Asia. "We'll be going to Tour of Taiwan, Tour of Korea, two or three races in China, one in Japan," Van Haute lists, adding "hopefully can turn that around and make a few stops in Europe too."

Speaking of racing in the US, Van Haute is clear on his priorities, describing the Tour of California as "the Super Bowl of cycling in the US," along with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado and the Tour of Utah. "We need to be there," he states clearly and directly. "We're happy when invited, and we're going up against the top teams in the world. Do I expect my guys to climb with Levi and the Schlecks and Horner? No. Not at all. But I expect them to race their you-know-whats off, get in breaks, and mix it up."

"Do we have a 35 mile-per-hour leadout for our sprinter? No, but we have guys who can get him in the right place where he can stick on wheels and try to win. And I'm proud of them when they do that."

With a new two-year commitment from Jelly Belly in hand, Van Haute is comfortably optimistic about the future of the team. "If we keep doing what we're doing, I think the Jelly Belly cycling team is going to be like Euskatel and Rabobank, just here for life," testifying to the longevity of the program.

Jelly Belly presented by Kenda Cycling Team for 2012: Luis Davila, Menso De Jong, Alex Hagman, Nic Hamilton, Sergio Hernandez, Brad Huff, Sean Mazich, Emerson Oronte, Jeremy Powers, Scott Stewart, Ricardo van der Velde. Ralf Medlaff is head mechanic, assisted by Dan Horndasch. Director is Danny Van Haute.