With a slightly slimmed-down roster for 2006 and only three returning riders, the coffee-powered Jittery Joe's-Zero Gravity team is a leaner and more focused outfit than last year, as Mark Zalewski discovered at the team's launch in Athens, Georgia.
We last visited the Jittery Joe's-Zero Gravity team around this time last year at the roasting company's main building for a team launch party. Riders, sponsors and local fans of the team joined together again in 2006 for food, music, team introductions and, of course, coffee. And while there are many similarities from year to year, a few noticeable differences were present. One difference is the size of this year's team, down from 11 riders to a squad of nine. This change perfectly illustrates a shift in attitude and focus for the 2006 team.
"What we've tried to do is take what we had last year and really tighten it up," says team director Micah Rice. "We have nine riders instead of eleven, but all are full-time riders...we really enjoyed having Trent and Kabush with us last year - obviously Trent did a lot for us with results. But everyone this year is full-time on the road, which is nice knowing that everyone is focused on one thing." Rice is referring to two of the mainstays from last year's team; Geoff Kabush and Trent Lowe, two mountain bikers who split their time on the trail and the road with success in both. Lowe has now converted full-time to the road with the Discovery Channel team following his breakthrough 2005 season.
This is one similarity that remains from year to year - the 'stepping stone' phenomenon. Rice readily acknowledges it, saying, "I pick up guys that I know, if we do our job as a team, will definitely not be with us next year. This really is a stepping stone, and I don't see us changing out of that in the foreseeable future."
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