Kelly Benefit Strategies expands international program in 2011

Kelly Benefit Strategies is one US-based Continental team that chose not to upgrade to a Professional Continental license, however that will not stop it from taking on an increased overseas racing program in 2011. The squad recently recruited four notable pros, Michael Creed, Mike Friedman, Jason Donald and Daniel Holloway, and is set to announce a new co-title sponsor that will help in its bid to gain success on cycling's international stage.

"We want to continue to expand our international schedule to prepare and develop our riders to be competitive in the biggest US events," said directeur sportif Jonas Carney. "However, domestic racing is important and there is a balance that we need to strike. We would like to upgrade to Pro Continental status, but we will only take this step when the time is right."

Several North American teams are in the process of moving up to the Professional Continental ranks including Team Type 1, UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis and SpiderTech p/b Planet Energy. However, Carney sited several reasons for his team to continue as a Continental team and the importance in being committed to the US racing scene. One of those reasons is UCI code 2.1.009 that the UCI intends to strictly enforce in 2011 in light of the general lack of UCI-sanctioned events held in the US in recent years.

"Currently the UCI will not allow Pro Continental teams to race in national events, the Tour of California remains 2.HC, and there are very few UCI events in the US," Carney said. "It would not be wise for a team with a domestic sponsor to preclude themselves from the majority of the domestic schedule.

"So for now, our main objectives will remain the Tour of California, Philly, and the USPRO Championships," he said. "The new Quiznos Pro Challenge will also be a focus in addition to targeted national events. We will use our international schedule to prepare our riders for those events. Hopefully in the next one or two years the conditions will be right for us to turn Pro Continental and spend a lot more time racing in Europe."

The team has competed in blocks of racing overseas for the previous two seasons including the Tour of Luzon, OCBC Cycle Singapore, Tour de Langkawi, Tour de Korea and the Tour of Thailand in Asia along with Vuelta Ciclista del Uruguay in South America and Tro-Bro Leon and the Tour de Bretagne in Europe. According to Carney, next year's schedule will have a stronger international presence while maintaining a core summer season in the US.

"We will definitely return to Asia for numerous races and we will again increase our time spent in Europe," Carney said. "We will race quite a few international events from February to April, including a European trip to prepare for the Tour of California, the USPRO Championships, and Philly. We will spend the bulk of the summer racing in the US and likely return to Europe at the end of the summer. The one change to the schedule will be that we will likely return to Asia in the fall to compete in more UCI events."

The squad recently added four riders with international racing experience to its roster: Mike Creed, Mike Friedman, Jason Donald and US Pro Criterium Champion Daniel Holloway. Carney stated that 75 percent of the 2010 roster will return next season. The full 15-man roster will be announced soon.

"Adding Jason, Mike and Mike was a very easy decision for us," Carney said. "I personally know all three of them and they are already friends with many of our riders, so there is no doubt that they will fit into our team. All three of them have raced extensively in Europe and bring a ton of experience to the table. Each also time trials very fast, and are from altitude. Our team should be even stronger in stage races, especially UCI stage races like Gila, Utah, and Quiznos."

Carney also noted that the team would be announcing a new co-title sponsor in the near future. "This will be a tremendous boost to our program," he said. "So far we have been able to improve our team each year, not just the roster, but the organization and staff too. Our new co-title sponsor will enable us take that next step and 2011 looks promising for our program."

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