Fresh off of the team's biggest victory of the season at the US Pro Criterium Championships by David Veilleux, the American Continental Kelly Benefit Strategies squad returns to Europe for the second time this year to compete in a block of racing in Belgium, Norway and France. The team will first contest the GP Stad Zottegem on August 17, a 192.3km, UCI 1.1-ranked event in Zottegem, Belgium, followed by a three-day stage race in Norway, the UCI 2.2-ranked Festningsrittet, August 20-22.
The team will then take part in two more one-day events starting with France's Grand Prix des Marbriers (UCI 1.2, 160km) on August 24, immediately followed by Belgium's Druivenkoers - Overijse (UCI 1.1, 198km) on August 25.
"The end of this season was tough, we had the end of our season set up and then most of our season cancelled," Jonas Carney, Kelly Benefit Strategies performance director, told Cyclingnews. "We had the Tour of New York, the Tour of Ireland, the Tour of Missouri and we were going to do Univest. The first three were cancelled and Univest was shortened, so what was a really heavy schedule turned out to be super light. That's one of the main reasons why we're taking our guys to Europe, to get them ready for the ProTour races in Canada and the US Pro [Road] Championships in South Carolina."
The team had a strong performance at 2009's US Professional Road Championships, placing riders on the podium for both the time trial and the road race, and the Americans on the squad are preparing for another run at the podium at this year's event September 18-19 in Greenville, South Carolina. Meanwhile, two of the squad's Canadian riders are being considered for spots on the Canadian National Team roster for a pair of new ProTour events in Canada, the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec on September 10 and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal on September 12.
"I think it's pretty likely that David [Veilleux] and Ryan Anderson will do those races, certainly both deserve to be on that roster. They're both on the long list, but they haven't picked the final roster yet."
While several Continental squads are considering a jump up to Pro Continental ranks for next season, Kelly Benefit Strategies will continue as a Continental team, at least for 2011.
"As much as we would really like to go Pro Continental next year, with the rules not changing regarding being able to do NRC (National Racing Calendar) events or any 2.2 events in Europe or other continents, we feel that it's the best thing for the team to remain Continental because it really whittles down what we're allowed to do," said Carney.
"It used to be that becoming a Pro Continental team was an easy choice before the UCI was enforcing these rules. The Navigators team was Pro Continental and it was ideal because you didn't eliminate any races at all from your schedule, but now you're eliminating 90 percent of your US schedule and a huge chunk of international races which you can no longer start.
"Unless you have a large budget and can hire some fairly high profile riders, it's pretty difficult to get into the big stuff in Europe. If you had a very large increase in budget where you were able to put together basically two teams then it becomes an option, where you have a Pro Continental team as well as a development team, like what Vaughters is doing or what RadioShack does with Trek-Livestrong. That's a reasonable solution to it, but if you don't have the budget to run two full programs it's not a good idea."
Kelly Benefit Strategies roster for European stint: Ryan Anderson (Can), Jesse Anthony (USA), Alex Candelario (USA), Neil Shirley (USA), David Veilleux (Can) and Scott Zwizanski (USA)
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