(April 25, 2012) BOULDER, COLO.-It’s that time of year again; road cycling teams are gearing up for the first big Tours of the season on American turf. Races like the Tour of Utah, The Tour of California, and the newer US Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado are drawing more and more of the international Pro Tour teams as UCI points are up for grabs. With many Pro Tour teams automatically invited to these tours, often times younger teams need to perform well in the early season races to be asked to ride in some of the bigger later season races.
One team to keep an eye on this season is the Bontrager/Livestrong U23 Team, who just held a training camp in Boulder CO., to bring the team together and prepare for the Tour of the Gila in Silver City New Mexico. For 26 years the Gila has been the first big stage race of the season in the US. This year, the Gila has been upgraded to a UCI 2.2 class race, meaning that more international teams and riders will be racing than in previous years. This may make things a bit more difficult than last year for these young guns, but these aren’t just any young guns.
The Livestrong U23 Team was put together by Lance, and team director Axel Merckx as a platform for young riders with Pro Tour potential to learn the ropes of racing bikes with the big boys. Last year at the Gila the Livestrong Team took top honors in quite a few categories including two stage wins. The momentum for the week began when Livestrong rider Joe Dombrowski went toe to toe with Paco Macebo up the Mogollon climb to the finish line. Mancebo eventually got away, but Dombrowski maintained a podium position, thus stoking the team with confidence for the rest of the week.
The Livestrong Team and one of their main Sponsors, Honey Stinger, held a media ride on Wednesday to let folks have a chance to meet some of the riders and head out on the road for a short ride with the team. Before the ride I spoke with Lawson Craddock, a young rider from Texas. His enthusiasm was obvious as he talked about the possibilities for the team at the upcoming Tour of the Gila. Two weeks earlier team member Ian Boswell took second in the U23 version of Leige-Bastion-Liege, and with last years results at the Gila, the whole team is feeling ready to race hard.
Asked about the change in title sponsorship from Trek to Bontrager, Trek liaison Matt Shriver said “We are trying to put a bit more focus on the Bontrager brand this year. We are running Bontrager wheels and components, but the bikes are the same Treks as last year. This is the same bike that anybody can walk into the store and buy, and consumers like to know that their bike is being ridden by the pros.”
Stay tuned to Mountain Flyer for daily updates of the Tour of the Gila.