Danny Van Haute, the longtime manager of the Jelly Belly-Maxxis US Continental team that folded after this season when the title sponsor didn't renew, will return in 2019 with a new Continental team called Wildlife Generation Pro Cycling Team p/b Maxxis.
There has been no official announcement, but Van Haute shared a Facebook post on Friday that revealed the new project.
"Cycling News: Danny Van Haute announces the formation of the 2019-2021 men's continental professional cycling team Wildlife Generation Pro Cycling Team p/b Maxxis," the post from cycling insider Ed Clancy read. "Danny's leadership as a former professional rider, Olympian, then director sportif for Jelly Belly Cycling continues with this Specialized-supported development team."
Van Haute confirmed the news Friday during a telephone call with Cyclingnews.
"I signed a three-year deal with them, and we're very excited," Van Haute said. "Hopefully it will improve the state of cycling in North America.
"You know how it is in the US, with the state of professional cycling teams. I'm just so happy that we've been working hard on getting a new team and it finally came together. Yeah, it's in December. It's a nice Christmas present."
Jelly Belly announced in August it was pulling the plug on one of the longest continuous sponsorships in the sport after this season. Van Haute began the program in 2000 and it has raced on the US domestic circuit and internationally since then under many sponsorship configurations, but with the candy maker always getting top billing.
Jelly Belly is just one of several US-based teams that folded in 2018. The UnitedHealthcare's men's and women's programs also ended following the season, with the longtime sponsor throwing in with Rally Cycling for 2019. The Canadian Silber team folded but was rolled into Floyd Landis' project. The former Holowesko-Citadel team run by Rich and George Hincapie will step back down to the Continental level next year after racing Pro Continental for one season. That team will be sponsored by Arapahoe Resources and BMC of Switzerland.
Promoting a conservation message
Van Haute bucked the trend by landing a new sponsor for three years. The Wildlife Generation, based in Southern California, "is a company devoted to protecting the planet and its wildlife," Executive Director Leah Sturgis said in a statement emailed to Cyclingnews. "Our focus is on conservation of wildlife habitat to prevent species extinction."
"Wildlife Generation is an organization offering charitable services for wildlife and habitat conservation, promoting public awareness in the field of environmental conservation, conducting educational services, programs, and workshops in the field of wildlife preservation and conservation."
In a subsequent phone conversation with Cyclingnews, Sturgis said she believes Van Haute's cycling team will be a perfect vehicle for spreading the word about the conservation issues the company promotes.
"Wildlife Generation Pro Cycling Team's message is about getting back in touch with nature and the need for protection of our wildlife and our oceans," Sturgis said. "Our plan is to promote public awareness of environmental conservation and wildlife preservation. We will inspire new generations to re-establish the human connection with the great outdoors through positive interactions. It's a critical time when every one of us should be waking up and asking what we can do to take better care of the planet, we want to show you how.
"If we had more bikes and more people on bikes there would be less emissions. It's certainly a whole pro-environmental message, so I think it works well together."
Wildlife Generation is a new organisation that Sturgis is creating to increase engagement with conservation projects.
"I know that I'm not a typical sponsor, but I think that's kind of what's cool," she said. "This isn't like me trying to hock a product, and so that's what's different about it. I see this as community engagement, essentially, really just a positive vibe and positive message."
Sturgis, a film and television industry veteran who has produced and directed videos, commercials, live television programs and a feature film, said she hopes to use her production company to create a documentary series on the team and the conservation issues it is promoting while also creating content for the cycling community.
A U25 development team
Van Haute said the team will be an under-25 development program, racing a similar calendar to Jelly Belly's.
"We've signed five riders, and there are three more to come," he said. "We're going to go with eight to nine guys - probably staying around eight. We're going to do the same schedule we've always done, starting off with Redlands through to Gila and a few other races. We'll do the same Asian tour stuff that we usually do."
"We'll have a lot of the same staff: Matty Rice will be one of our directors, and the mechanics stay. They were all waiting to see what I got. It came at the last moment, but that's good. It's good news."
Van Haute said the kit is being designed and the clothing company has kicked into hyper drive to deliver for the new squad and winter camp.
"That's frantically going on right now," he said. "The clothing company is definitely working overtime, let's put it that way."
Throughout its 19-year run, Jelly Belly achieved many noteworthy results, including several national championship titles in the US, Canada and Mexico, but Lachlan Morton's overall win at the 2016 2.HC Tour of Utah was a highlight.
Past and present riders of note include Jason McCartney, Tyler Farrar, Alex Candelario, Jonas Carney, Danny Pate, Jeremy Powers, Andrew Bajadali, Brad Huff, Kiel Reijnen, Todd Wells, Jonny Clarke, Will Routley, Mike Friedman, Carter Jones, Phil Gaimon, Luis Lemus, Jacob Rathe, Freddy Rodriguez, Serghei Tvetcov and Gavin Mannion.
From the 2018 Jelly Belly squad, five riders have signed contracts for 2019: Jack Burke to Leopard Pro Cycling, Keegan Swirbul to Floyd's Pro Cycling, Lionel Mawditt to BridgeLane, Ben Wolfe to Arapahoe Resources-BMC and Cormac McGeough to EvPro Racing.