Chad Thompson is perplexed and disappointed that his UCI Continental team Kenda/5-hour Energy did not receive an invitation to either of the upcoming UCI 2.1 stage races in August: the Tour of Utah or USA Pro Cycling Challenge. On a more positive note, the team is in negotiations with two ProTeam riders and has re-signed Phil Gaimon, Shawn Milne and Luca Damiani.
"We feel we deserved an invitation to both events, if not at least one," Thompson said. "We know the organizers are faced with tough decisions. The teams are, too. Without sponsors being happy, teams do not thrive. Without teams, the races do not thrive. It's a vicious circle, but a reality. Allowing two of the domestic teams to do all three and leave us out was not good for sponsors or the image of domestic cycling. It makes it look political instead of fair or deserved."
Medalist Sports, managers of the two events, played a large role in determining team selections. Acquiring UCI 2.1 status meant that race organizers were permitted to invite ProTeams and Professional Continental teams, which left fewer spots available for Continental teams.
Kenda/5-hour Energy is currently the 24th ranked team on the UCI America Tour, and the ninth-best North American team behind Spidertech, Chipotle, UnitedHealthcare, Realcyclist, Team Type 1, Jamis-Sutter Home, Bissell and Jelly Belly. It is the 12th placed team on the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar.
Race organizers of the Tour of Utah announced invitations for 16 teams including five ProTeams, five Professional Continental teams along with Continental squads Bissell, Jamis-Sutter Home, Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth and RealCyclist.com from the USA and Endura Racing (UK), Gobernacion de Antoquia (Colombia) and PureBlack Racing (New Zealand).
Race organizers of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge announced its final list of 17 teams with eight ProTeams, three Professional Continental teams and US Continental squads Bissell, Jelly Belly p/b Kenda and Team Exergy. Rabobank and EPM-UNE were also invited to replace development teams Chipotle Development and Trek-Livestrong.
"We were honest with the organizers early on and said we would rather do Utah over Colorado, if we would be unable to do both," Thompson said. "Our team was told we would not get the invitation to Utah, and we were a bit perplexed. When you look at the invited teams, some of it just does not make sense. I will not mention names, but some teams don't even race here and have never been heard of. That is a slap in the face to a program such as ours that has been growing and made the sacrifices to hire men like Ben Day, Shawn Milne and Frankie Andreu.
"We were told we did not get the invitation to Utah in order to 'spread out the invitations fairly'," he said. "We were disappointed, but understood and respected that reason. But when the list was made public, our sponsors were not happy, and we have to admit we were bummed about it too. As bad as it seemed, we thought Colorado would be assured. After receiving the first call about Colorado, we felt our chances were good. But, again the list came out and we were not on it."
Kenda/5-hour Energy had good fortune this spring when it announced the signing of overall contender Ben Day, new sponsor 5-hour Energy and that it had received an invitation to America's marquee stage race at the UCI 2.HC-ranked Amgen Tour of California. The team was off to a respectable start with wins at the San Dimas Stage Race and Terrapin Athens Twilight Criterium, one top-10 stage finish at the Amgen Tour, a sixth place overall performance at the Tour de Beauce and a stage win at the Cascade Cycling Classic, all despite a series of illness and injury that affected members of the team.
According to Thompson, the team was capable of much more and the riders were hoping for an opportunity to prove themselves at the Tour of Utah and USA Pro Cycling Challenge. "The answer is no, we are not happy with the year thus far," Thompson said. "We know we are much better than the results and invitations show. Obviously, with a GC hitter like Ben Day, everyone expects podiums or bust. We are no different and neither is he. So, we are frustrated and a bit disappointed."
The team will finish out the season at UCI events that include the Tour of Elk Grove, Vuelta Mexico, Taiwan Cup and possible the Herald Sun Tour. The team is currently expecting to announce a new co-title sponsor to join Kenda and help their bid for a UCI Continental license for 2012, with a view to an upgrade to Professional Continental status in 2013. 5-Hour energy will no longer be a co-sponsor but will remain a technical sponsor and still be heavily involved with the team.
It is currently in the process of contract agreements for next season and has confirmed re-signing Gaimon, Milne, Damiani and Stemper though an agreement with Day is yet to be made. According to Thompson, he is also in negotiations with two new riders who currently race for ProTeams and confirmed signing Nate English for next year.
"With the above additions, we will be unmistakably one of the best stage race teams on paper domestically," Thompson said. "It will be up to their legs to do the talking. Until then, we want to get our 2011 results to start rolling in, so we are committed to doing so."
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