A merger between North Carolina's Team Mountain Khakis and Georgia's Jittery Joe's has formed the USA's 11th UCI-registered Continental team in 2010. Newly-named Mountain Khakis fueled by Jittery Joe's, managed by Premier Sports Partners, a sports management company owned by Jamie Bennett and Pat Raines, has secured Scott Moninger to lead the team as directeur sportif.
"We are a program that creates an educational environment, giving young guys experience," said Pat Raines. "Scott is one of the most experienced guys in the US and he immediately brings with him a captain quality. The amount of experience he is bringing to the team is endless. He's excited because it's a new opportunity for him and we are bringing something to the table for him as well."
Moninger retired from the BMC Racing team in 2007 following 20 successful years of professional bike racing and nearly 300 career victories. In 2008 the Boulder, Colorado native rejoined the cycling community as assistant directeur sportif of the Toyota United Pro Cycling team, under Len Pettyjohn. Next year, he will co-direct alongside Jason Snow.
"We put feelers out there to some people and they came back with Scott Moninger," Raines said. "We got in touch with him and he was keyed up and interested. He had worked with Toyota United but he never had the opportunity to be the guy out front. He was looking for an opportunity to be the head guy and make tactical decisions."
The South-East merge
Charlotte-based Mountain Khakis Pro Cycling, managed by Bennett and Raines and Raleigh-based DLP Racing, managed by Jonathan Kane were both registered UCI Continental teams in 2009. Kane is the son of Jack Kane, founder of Jack Kane Bicycles, custom racing bicycles and former sponsor of DLP Racing. DLP Racing is not directly involved with the merge between Mountain Khakis program with the Jittery Joe's funding however, Kane contributes to the team with valuable equipment partner.
"Jonathan is an equipment partner," Bennett said. "He is a huge contributor on the equipment sponsor side. Other than Jack Kane Bicycles as our equipment sponsors, we haven't brought in any of the DLP Racing team. That's been a working partnership and we see it as an equipment sponsorship more than a merger with his organization. We are not DLP and not associated with that program."
Micah Rice, former senior marketing executive and manager of the Athens-based Jittery Joe's team, enjoyed seven successful seasons in the professional ranks. He opted to step down to the amateur ranks in 2009 due to a shortage of funding and subsequently went on to accept a position as USA Cycling Event Director. Title sponsor Jittery Joe's continues with a vested interest in funding cycling and found a home with the successful Mountain Khakis Professional Cycling team for next year.
"What we've done is it's the Mountain Khakis program teamed up with the Jittery Joe's sponsor," Bennett said. "They had a developmental team last year and that is what our team is really all about. We felt like we have come up with a legacy and it was natural to work with them. They have a good development program and they wanted to get back into the UCI program for next year."
The UCI introduced higher bank guarantees for teams registered for Continental status in 2010, with each team required to pay a guarantee of 20,000 Euro or 15 percent of the total for all riders' salaries and staff - whichever comes first. The bank guarantee was raised considerably in comparison to last year's minimum fee of 5,500 Euro or 10 percent of the riders and staff salaries.
According to Jonathan Kane, who managed the DLP Racing team, teams are required to pay a registration fee of 4,500 Euro (previously in Swiss Francs) and US$4,000 in USA Cycling processing fees, putting a financial strain on lower-budget professional teams.
"For our team [DLP Racing] and for Mountain Khakis, the amount to be a registered UCI team was a six-fold increase," Kane continued. "So, it definitely affected the lower budget teams more then everyone else. For the bigger teams it might not have been as big of a difference. A big change in the registration fees was going from Swiss Francs to the Euro; it didn't jump nominally that much but when you include the exchange rate, which is at a 12-month high, it was a big change to something like 7,000 US dollars."
The lucky 13 riders
Kane confirmed a 13-rider roster for Mountain Khakis fueled by Jittery Joe's with new names that include Matt Cooke and Neil Bezdek from GS Mengoni, Eric Schildge from BikeReg.com/Cannondale, Scott Tietzel and former Jittery Joe's crew Oscar Clark, Thomas Brown and Joey Rosskopf.
"It's important to have talent identification and then develop and move riders on to different programs," said Kane who reiterated Bennett's feelings regarding developing young talent. "We establish riders and turn them into guys who can make a career out of bike racing. We want to help bridge that gap. We try to pair more experienced riders with new, up and coming riders. That will continue to be part of the team's mission."
Returning riders include Mark Hekman, winner of the famed Athens Twilight Criterium and two-time overall winner of the USA Crits Series. Joining him is cyclo-cross talent Adam Myerson, who stood on the podium in fifth place at the USPro Criterium Championships in Downers Grove. Key returning riders include Toby Marzot, Will Hoffarth, Isaac Howe, and David Guttenplan.
"We have seen a lot of excitement based on the results we had last year," said Kane regarding Mountain Khakis podium success. "It has helped in soliciting new sponsors in the industry and outside of the industry. We were excited about the results and how they translated back into the dollars for us."
Similarly to last year, the squad will focus heavily on US criteriums. However, the addition of Moninger and several key climbers means the team will seek to compete in more road races and stage races.
"I think we will see more stage races in our schedule next year," explained Kane. "We don't feel a giant loyalty to chase the NRC [National Racing Calendar]. We will race where the team's talents are best suited. There will be a lot of crits and we will expand into stage races and perhaps an international race or two."
The team will come together for a spring training camp in Greenville, South Carolina, a central location to the team headquarters in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Mountain Khaki's headquarters located in Charlotte, North Carolina and Jittery Joe's headquarters in Athens, Georgia.
"Enough of the riders are coming back that we have an established culture and we don't need to rebuild that every year," Kane added. "Having the camp in Greenville means they can come into camp and it's centrally located to our sponsors."
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