Kelly Benefit Strategies will return to the Tour of California in May after being left off the invite list in 2009. KBS was one of five U.S. Continental teams announced as invitees to the largest stage race in States.
“Racing in the Tour of California is a really big deal for our team, our racers and our sponsors and it is the biggest race, probably in the history of the United States as far as who shows up,” said director Jonas Carney.
“It’s a really big deal for everyone involved and we’ve built our schedule around doing well there.”
The team won three UCI international stage races in 2009: the Vuelta Cyclista del Uruguay, Tour of Thailand and Tour de Beauce (Can).
Additionally, KBS picked up a number of top domestic results, including the overall at the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic (Zach Bell) and the Tour de Winghaven (Andrew Bajadali).
Carney is realistic in the team’s expectations headed into a race of California’s caliber, yet his expectations are high.
“Going into a race like that and expecting that you’re going to go into a race like that and beat Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer is a bit unrealistic, but I think that if you look at years past, a lot of domestic riders have won stages, they’ve worn jerseys, they’ve done fairly well in stages and different competitions,” said Carney. “I think with the roster we have, we’ve built a real road team, a stage race team, with a lot of depth, so we’re going to go in there and try to make our mark.”
Riders expected to make the final roster for California include Andrew Bajadali, Zach Bell, Alex Candelario, Reid Mumford, Neil Shirley, David Veilleux and Scott Zwizanski.
“We have some guys,” said Carney. “Candelario has been top five in stages. Zwizanski’s time trialing last year was brilliant and if he can step it up a little bit, he has a shot of doing something in the TT. And with riders like Zach Bell, David Veilleux, Neal Shirley and Andrew Bajadali, a lot of our guys are capable of doing something on a given day and it’s really about recognizing opportunities when they’re presented and capitalizing on that.”
KBS will tackle a slew of international races to prepare for California, including the Tours of Thailand and Uruguay.
Later in April, the team will send squads to the Tour of Korea and a series of French races, including the Tour of Brittany.
“The France and Korea trips, there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to win at those races – win something, whether that be stages or the overall because we should be up to speed by that time,” said Carney.
“The ultimate goal is to do well at the Tour of California and Philadelphia, the big stuff, this year. That’s why we’re going to France, to use that as a stepping stone for our guys to reach a new level, so they can do well at California or Philly, but because those invitations, they’re such good races, such prestigious races for us, we’re going to send a really strong squad and we’re going to go over with the idea of doing really well there. It’s probably the first race of the year where we’ll really be ready and we’ll be gunning for it, so I hope we’ll be able to get results.”