Tour of Pennsylvania - Grooming Young Guns
Teams Strive to Groom Tomorrow's Cycling Stars at U25 Tour of Pennsylvania.
Directeur Spontif's Frankie Andreu, Erik Saunders, Jonas Carney, Anthony Gallino,
John Robertson Comments.
Frankie Andreu can only chuckle when asked about his own transition out of
cycling’s junior racing ranks and up to the senior level. The one-time Lance
Armstrong lieutenant who started the Tour de France nine times says that back in
his day the law of the jungle ruled.
“It was survival of the fittest. We didn’t have anything like [the Tour of
Pennsylvania],” recalled Andreu, who will direct the California-based ZteaM at
the 420-mile, under-25 stage race that starts June 24 in Philadelphia and
finishes six days later on June 29 in Pittsburgh. “After I graduated from
juniors, I was always going up against the big boys. I got my tail handed to me
every single race because once you turned 18 and became a category 1 racer, you
were competing against adults with way more experience than you. That’s why this
race has really set itself apart. I think it has a lot of importance for these
young riders. It can open a lot of doors. If you do well here, you can get
noticed and make that next step.”
Indeed, from a development standpoint, you can’t overstate the importance of the
American Eagle Outfitters ® Tour of Pennsylvania Presented By Highmark Healthy
High 5®. Similar to Division I collegiate athletics or minor league baseball,
the under-25 stage race gives promising riders a chance to compete against their
peers – and not dive immediately into the deep end.
Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast
“I think if you’re the most talented guy coming out of the junior ranks, then
you are going to be able to make the transition okay,” explained
Jonas Carney, a
former pro who now directs the Kelly Benefit Strategies-Medifast team, one of 18
six-man squads slated to start the Tour of Pennsylvania. “But some guys don’t
develop as quickly. They need some races where they can be competitive and learn
how to win, as opposed to just learning how to survive. I think you really
develop some bad habits if you are always in way over your head. That’s why this
race is such a great opportunity for these kids. They can come out and race and
not be expected to go up against eight Toyota-United pros or a bunch of ProTour
guys like you had at the Philly week races.”
Time Pro Cycling Team
This need for a middle ground has also launched a slew of development-minded
programs. In fact, almost all the teams that will compete at the Pennsylvania
tour place some – if not all – of their focus on grooming young riders for
professional careers. A prime example is the Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based
Time Pro Cycling team, whose No. 1 goal is educating the sport’s future stars.
“The concept of the team is to create an environment and structure where young
riders can have the opportunity to learn by doing,” said Time team director
Saunders. “I mean if you look at your average high school basketball player, he
probably knows more about basketball than any cat. 1 cyclist. That’s a sad
situation. We are trying to help change that because we felt that there was big
hole in the development side of pro cycling. That’s why we set up our team to be
a trade school for cyclists.”
The California Giant Berry Farms-Specialized team boasts a similar mission
statement. The Watsonville-based squad is made up exclusively of riders that
have come up through its club ranks, learning from the team’s elite members all
along the way.
“We’ve got people on our elite team who are ages 19 to 42,” explained team
director Anthony Gallino. “And all those people help mentor our young guys,
teaching them what it takes to get to the next level. We try to get to them
before they discover girls and beer and cars, and instill the kind of dedication
that it takes to advance through this sport. Because we all know that’s not an
easy thing to do.”
No doubt in these days of sponsorship contraction and reduced team budgets,
getting noticed has become much harder. There are fewer pro team roster spots
than in years past, making opportunity tougher to come by.
Konica Minolta Continental Cycling Team
“I think this race is very important for the guys in terms of their future
careers,” affirmed John Robertson, team director of the South Africa-based
Konica Minolta Continental Cycling Team, one of seven international teams
competing at the Tour of Pennsylvania. “It’s a major race that will get major
attention within the sport. They’ll have a real chance to get good results, and
that in turn will help them get bigger contracts.”
The Tour even became the driving force behind the formation of the PA Lightning,
a brand new development team out of the host state, Pennsylvania. With mostly
young home grown riders, all with international experience, the squad hopes that
a good showing in their home race will lead to support by Pennsylvania-based
companies for national and international competition. The concept was embraced
by Pittsburgh-based Seagate who is sponsoring the PA Lightning in the race
across the state.
“A race like this is perfect for showcasing the cycling talent coming out of
Pennsylvania”, said John Gill who is sponsor liaison for the team. “When a
company like Seagate steps up to help a young, determined team, it becomes a
rallying point for employees that can be extended to their business units around
Plus the record $150,000 prize purse on the line at the Tour of Pennsylvania
makes this the richest Espoir race in the world, something that ensures
credibility and international prestige.
Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast
Team adds New Young Talent to the Roster
Jake Keough to Race Tour of Pennsylvania
Fast on the heels of seeing 20 year old David Veilleux snatch both best young
rider and the final stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix last week, the Kelly
Benefit Strategies/Medifast team today adds another U25 rising star athlete to
the roster. Jake Keough officially joins the squad and will race with the team
at the American Eagle Outfitters Tour of Pennsylvania this week and for the
remainder of the 2008 season.
Keough who just turned 20 this week comes off a terrific year of racing and
turns pro with first place finishes at Grant’s Tomb Criterium, in the overall
U25 Speedweek Rankings plus 10th place in the Kelly Cup Criterium, part of the
Baltimore Bike Jam, which team mate David Veilluex won just a month ago.
Starting out racing BMX bikes at the age of seven, Keogh brings that BMX
handling skill and years of amateur racing to the team, specializing in
technical, tight Criteriums and fast finish road races.
"It has always been a priority for the Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast team
to bring the most talented young racers into our program,” says Jonas Carney,
performance director. “As a result, we are fielding a very strong team for the
Tour of Pennsylvania. David Veilleux, Keven Lacombe, and Jake Keough should be
extremely dangerous in the bunch sprints and we are hoping for some stage wins."
Keogh joins Mark Hinnen (CAN) back from injury, Ben King, the US 2007 Junior
Road Race Champion, Keven Lacombe (CAN), one of the team’s acclaimed sprinters
and Veilleux along with Clay Murfet advancing for the Kelly elite team.
"We are fortunate to have such a great U25 event for our young athletes,”
adds Carney. “Over the years, pro racing in the US has become very fast and it
is difficult for young racers to make the leap from amateur to pro. The Tour of
PA is a great opportunity for our best young racers to test themselves against
their peers in a true stage race."
Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast
Tour of Pennsylvania Roster:
Mark Hinnen (CAN)
Jake Keough (USA)
Ben King (USA)
Keven Lacombe (CAN)
Clay Murfet (USA)
David Veilleux (CAN)
The Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast pro cycling team is managed out of
Minneapolis by Circuit Global Sport Management.