January, 18, 2003: Today the directors of the elite amateur cycling team, West Virginia–GoMart, announced the formation of the professional cycling team, Team West Virginia.
The pro team is launched from the nation’s No. 1- ranked amateur team, Team West Virginia – GoMart.
"The formation of this team is the culmination of many years of hard work and consistent results in the elite amateur racing scene," said Craig Slaughter, team director for the last eleven years. "It was time to go for broke. After winning four national titles in the last two years, it was time to take the program to the next level. There was not much left for most of these guys to achieve as amateurs, and they wanted to stay with the program," he said.
Team West Virginia is a combination of new, young talent, experienced pros, and members of the amateur team who will become pro. Returning from last year’s team are 2002 National Road Champion and former pro, Scottie Weiss; 2002 National Criterium Champion, Jim Baldesare; 2001 National Criterium Champion, Benjamin Sharp; Wes Seigler and Pat O’Donnell.
New blood has been added with younger, but experienced riders like West Virginia native and former pro Jacob Fetty; Dave Wenger; Mike Jones; Conor Hurley; and Tim Henry. Returning to the pro ranks with the team in 2003 will be ex-pro Jon Hamblen, who is expected to provide team leadership and pro-peleton experience. Former team member Greg Cook will manage the team and its day-to-day operations.
"We have put together a team that in its first year will be very competitive," Cook said. "We have a lot of talented and experienced riders who do not have well-known names, but they will be after this year."
Team West Virginia will focus domestically on most of the 2003 National Racing Calendar (NRC) and Pro Tour events. Cook said the team’s goals are podium appearances at the Daimler-Chrysler Tour of Georgia and the San Francisco Grand Prix, as well as a top-five NRC ranking.
The team’s formation was possible in part because of a cooperative advertising grant it received through the West Virginia Division of Tourism. Because the team is part of an advertising campaign of the Charleston Regional Sports Council, which applied for the grant, team materials will bear the Division of Tourism’s "West Virginia, Wild and Wonderful" logotype.
The team has a mix of local sponsors, including GoMart Conveince Stores. The team will be riding the Merlin Metalworks - Magia and Extralight titanium framesets, ITM handlebars, stems and seatposts, Fizik saddles and Cane Creek wheels. Additional sponsors include Speedplay pedals, Northwave shoes, Limar helmets and Biemme clothing.
Upcoming will be a team profile with rider bios!