By Basil Moutsopoulos
Season Two — 2005
Some times it seems like we’ve been running this team for ten plus years but in reality this year was only our second season. To build on our great start we knew we needed to add depth to our roster.
A chance meeting by oversized baggage claim at La Guardia brought us rider number 5 Peter Horn (we lost Greg to the Air Force where he now works as an accountant at NORAD command). We were on our way home from Park City, UT (Espoir Nationals) and Peter was on our flight and heading to his freshman year at Vassar University. Peter’s from Boulder, CO and had finished a fine 19th in the Road Race without any teammates. Johnny Hayes (Cleveland, TN) was recommended to us via the Durango boys and we signed him up. Alex Ferrero (Hopkinton, NH) came to us as the #1 ranked Junior in New England after 2004 and was also signed. Welcome riders 6 & 7.
We were still a bit thin and it was hard finding riders. Enter stage left, former CRCA president John Eustice. With John’s assistance we signed three talented riders who he knew were looking for a team. Welcome aboard Jon Swain (Rockville, MD), David Wiswell (Easton,CT) and Mike Chauner (West Chester, PA). Riders 8, 9 and 10 and we were set for the season.
We began our planning with a training camp in Tucson, AZ. Surprisingly we had almost 100% attendance from our guys who had to fly themselves in. The week was spent meeting with sponsors including Sakonnet’s CEO Thurstan Bannister and lots of riding. In four days we packed in over 500 miles.
The year then started off with a bang. Johnny won a part of the Cyclo-Cross Collegiate National Team Championships; Chris becoming part owner of gold in the Collegiate National Team Time Trial and David Wiswell flew SKNT’s colors for the first time in a track event at the Stuttgart and Berlin Six-Days. Then Andy and Lee raced at Redlands. Andy’s strong showing got him the call up to the U23 National Team he was looking for. His invitation to ride at the Dodge Tour of Georgia against the best from the Pro Tour including Lance was affirmation that the time and energy we where putting into the program was starting to pay off. After finishing a strong 41st Andy was off to Belgium with the National Team.
In June the squad was heading to the Tour of Beauce Bell UCI 2.1 in Quebec, Canada. That’s where the train fell of the rails so to speak. Calamity struck before we even left as our G.C rider for the event David Wiswell was struck by a car in training. David had just returned from a stint in France and was raring to go before disaster struck.
On paper the event should have been easier than what we faced in Ireland the year before. There were fewer racing days and there were no jet lag or time zone issues. Yet a combination of horrendous weather, a top Pro field and not a flat stretch of road in sight did our young team in (Johnny was our only finisher). There were no “in the money” placings and certainly no top GC finish but most importantly the kids learned.
We weren’t home from Canada for more than a day before we left for another rendezvous in Park City for Espoir Nationals. Andy flew in from Belgium the night before and we were ready to roll. It was Lee who took matters to hand in the first event the criterium. Racing for all he was worth and from the front the entire day Lee scored the biggest placing in our young teams history with a 6th Place just one spot off of the podium. The next day Chris charged off the front in the Road Race with a dangerous break, which had a real chance of staying away to the line. Less than 10 miles from the finish he was caught.
All in all at the end of our second season our Espoirs won 19 races. Three of which were won by Louis (our original member) who then upgraded from a Cat 4 to a Cat 3.
Season Three — 2006
Things are starting to feel like a true sports franchise around here. After two years of finding our footing and putting systems in place our squad is starting to get some notice from the powers that be in the US cycling community. Granted we haven’t won anything “big” yet but I truly feel that we’ve learned quite a lot and we are now ready to make a big jump.
As one season ends you immediately start working on the next. The first task at hand was recruiting riders. Unfortunately we lost Peter to Europe as he’ll be racing full time in Belgium next year, Robbie took a job in finance (he has been moved on to the regional team) and so we had three available spots. We begin taking resumes in August and then we set a cut off date at the end of September. There were 22 resumes sent in this year and many of these kids were very deserving. It’s always tough saying no to a kid who’s on the cusp yet it’s part of the DS job.
In the end I feel we signed three of the best 19 year olds in the country. Our first two signings were Chris Ruhl (Quakertown, PA) and Guy East (Indianapolis, IN). Both kids are dual members of the Espoir Track and Road National Teams. Our third signing was Caleb Fairly (Amarillo, TX) who previously road on Hot Tubes, was ranked the #1 Junior in the nation at the end of 2005 and is also a member of the Espoir Road National Team.
With our 12-man roster in place we could put our full attention into shoring up commitments from equipment sponsors and planning our schedule. Luckily our title sponsor Sakonnet Technology has committed to a multi year relationship with the team and the stress of negotiating that agreement was avoided. The biggest equipment change for our program is the addition of a new bike sponsor in the form of Jamis Bicycles. Jamis if you didn’t know is a local company based out of New Jersey and they make some of the finest products on the market. The team has already been outfitted on carbon Xenith Pro bikes and the feedback from the kids has been tremendous. Other new sponsors include Cateye, Mavic and our official media publication is Bicycling. Returning sponsors include Girodana, Ritchey, Schwalbe, Lazer, Specialized (shoes and saddles), Tifosi Optics and our good friends Larry & Jeff’s Bicycles Plus (87th and 2nd Ave).
Now if we just had a warehouse for all these shipments we’d be all set!
The final steps in our 2006 preparations involved adding another manger to our roster and setting our schedule. Big Stephen Badger continues as our assistant director on the east coast and new for next year we’ve put Bruce Weyman in place as our west coast assistant director. Each of us is responsible for four riders on the team. The ins and outs of working with young adults can be challenging and the only way to get the best out of them is by continually staying in contact, which we can now do by sharing the load.
Our schedule for next season is NRC focused. With eight Cat 1s on the team we can now enter any and all NRC races. The season kicks off with another training camp in Tucson (January 3rd thru the 9th) followed by our NRC debut at the Merced Cycling Classic in California. Moving forward we have 22 NRC races on our list. The teams goal for the year is to crack the top 25 of the NRC team standings and with the talent we have on board I fully believe we can do it.
Is this a lot of work? You’d better believe it yet every day it’s so much fun as well. Simply put, working with kids really changes you. I applaud and support Craig Cook’s efforts to start a CRCA Junior team and I encourage all the sub-teams to get involved with development programs as well. Who knows, with some luck we may have a couple of future pros in our midst that we can all be proud of and if none of these kids make it to the next level that would be ok as well as it’s more about enjoying the ride and giving back than anything else.