US-based Continental team Kenda p/b Geargrinder has completed its 16-man roster, naming newly-declared 2007 US Pro criterium champion Shawn Milne, USA Crits series winner Isaac Howes and Roman Kilun to its 2011 team.
Kenda doubled its sponsorship funding, and that will allow the team to increase its racing schedule to participate in most of the National Racing Calendar (NRC) series, UCI-sanctioned events inside the US and international stage races in Asia, South America and Canada. The funding also went toward bringing back Directeur Sportif Frankie Andreu.
"The number one goal with the additional funding was to bring Frankie back," Thompson said. "He believes in the program and wants to be here but he is Frankie and we had to afford him. Bringing him back attracted riders like Milne and Kilun and he is what attracted [Luca] Damiani originally."
"The next target for our money was to improve our roster," he added. "We need to graduate to the next level by getting sprinters, time trialists and all rounders. Then, we need to win some NRC and UCI races. We were top three all the time but we need to get on that top step. I think 2011 will be much different for us."
The team is also aiming at earning a starting spot at the Amgen Tour of California held in May 15-22.
"We keep trying to up the ante every single year," said team owner Chad Thompson of his seven-year program. "It always boils down to budget, so as that increases so do our successes. Next year, we are making a big push to be in the Tour of California. Kenda is an official tire sponsor of that race and Hincapie clothing is also a sponsor so we have a vested interest in being there. The last couple of years we didn’t feel like we truly belonged there, but our roster this year speaks for itself and I think we are just as good as any other top ranked US Continental team."
Milne was latest addition coming across from Team Type 1. He was also a member of the former Health Net-Maxxis and Navigators Insurance teams and was declared the 2007 US Pro Criterium Champion after his former teammate Kirk O’Bee received a life-time ban from United States Anti Doping Agency.
"Shawn was sought after by many teams and the news surrounding his 2007 crit title made him more attractive. Plus we were chasing him since July," Thompson said. "He was Frankie Andreu’s number one choice to lead the team so we are happy that he ended up here."
"He had a bad year with Team Type 1 last year and bad years are usually followed by good years," he added. "I believe he is a true all around racer who can sprint, lead-out and he is a good stage racer. He is versatile, still young and has been on some of the biggest teams in the country. His experience will bolster our roster."
Other new signings include USA Crit Series overall winner Isaac Howes from Mountain Khakis, Roman Kilun from UnitedHealthcare and Bobby Sweeting from Globalbike p/b Catoma. Howes' strong sprint helped propel him to the overall title in the USA Crits Series, which culminated at the Texas Tough Grand Prix, an event that is supported by Kenda p/b Geargrinder.
"We want to make our criterium team stronger," Thompson said. "We got the sprinter we wanted and we can depend on him and Luca Damiani at the end of a race. We support the TX Tough as the USA Crits Series finale because that is really important to our sponsor SRAM. We also brought in support for Phil Gaimon with Sweeting, a time trial phenom."
Returning riders include Chad Hartley, Chris Monteleone, Geoff Godsey, Jake Rytlewski, Jim Stemper, Jonny Sundt, Luca Damiani, Pat Lemieux, Phil Gaimon, Rob White, Scottie Weiss and Spencer Gaddy.
The Kenda p/b Geargrinder team will launch its new program in mid-January in Dallas, Texas. The riders and staff will convene for a pre-season training camp from February 19-28 near San Antonio, Texas.