The Bissell Pro Cycling Team executed perfectly in today’s stage at the Tour de Georgia.
Stage Five was the Tour’s longest stage at 133.4 miles (214.7 kilometers), the first of two mountain stages with three Cat 3 climbs with the last one at only 4 miles to go launching the riders in a dive bomb to the finish. All the teams would try to get their man in a break today, and Bissell after an unlucky and disappointing TTT yesterday was active in all moves.
Their man, Teddy King initiated the first move at 3 miles into the race and when that was brought back, tried to be in every move after that.
Finally, 34 miles into the stage, a group of 4 riders escaped the peloton, and included Teddy King again. Along with Tim Johnson (Health Net-Maxxis), Valeriy Kobzarenko (Team Type 1) and Cam Evans (Symmetrics), the break stayed away for the almost the next 100 miles opening up a gap of over 11 minutes before the field started to get interested in chasing. The break was finally caught in the climb of the final KOM, and Richard England attacked, and raced down to the finish line to win the stage. To cap off the stage win, King picked up the KOM jersey. A perfect day for Bissell.
The man orchestrating the strategy for the Bissell Pro Cycling Team is New Zealander Glen Mitchell. The 2 time Road National Champion, Mitchell retired as a pro rider in 2006 and took on the role of DS for then Priority-Health the following year.
“It’s just a nice group of guys who I actually really like hanging out with and I think that’s also been brought together by Glen Mitchell who is a former teammate of mine. He’s a great tactician, really attentive to details of the race in general and I knew he could apply that to being a manager. Obviously I think he’s really well acquitted himself in his job. I think we fit together well and I race well under his style” said Ben Jacques-Maynes about the team and Mitchell earlier this season.
I had a chance to talk to Glen earlier this season to get his thoughts on the new year and his goals for the year.
LL: Looking back at 2007, how satisfied are you with the year?
Glen: Very satisfied, you know, the goals that we set ourself at the beginning of the year with the expectations of the riders that we had, we definitely exceeded that. Obviously Ben Jacques-Maynes has a breakout year, I’ve known him for a while, I’ve been on the same teams and I’ve seen him grow and you know there was potential there and we had the opportunity to bring him on the team and we jumped at that. And he’s sort of fulfilled every expectation and more of what we thought . The other guys have risen to the occasion as well, definitely looking back, there’s obviously a couple of little things that you’d like to change here or there, but it was a very good year for us.
LL: What is it that you wanted to change or that you are changing this year?
Glen: This year, our total sponsor changed, we have a little bit more money to work with so we can build the team, you know the aim is to keep this team building every year, to build it up another step. In doing that we’ve gone from a roster of 12 riders to 14, we’ve brought in riders like Aaron Olson and Burke Swindlehurst. I’ve brought in Jeremy Vennell as well who’s a good tour rider, good in the time trials, good in the hill climbs, and he’s been racing in Europe for the last 4 years as well. You know we are adding to the top end of our team so the expectation is hopefully we can do what we did last year, if we do the same that would definitely be very acceptable to us but we obviously try and strive to do the best we can and you know going into the season with a good positive attitude.
LL: What are the goals for the season?
Glen: The overall goal is to win races. After that, it’s definitely the big tours, we want to feature in the tours. We featured last year in California, we featured in Georgia, we want to build on that, we want to feature more in those races, Tour of California, Georgia, Missouri, National Championships, the Philly races. We’ve been successful at Nature Valley, Cascade, Mt Hood and those other tours and really that’s the way that I’ve looked at the team, predominantly our racing is going to be more tour racing and the big one day races. Obviously, there are a lot of criteriums in America, but our resources are more geared towards the tour so that’s why you know I bring in Burke, I bring in Aaron, they complement Ben really well. Ben gets excited about tour racing, these other guys get excited about tour racing so I’m trying to build the best tour squad that I can at the moment with the resources I have.
LL: What are the strengths of the team?
Glen: It’s been a growing process, the team has been around, in some form or another with the management system it has, it’s been around 5 years. It moved from an elite team 5 years ago and then it slowly moved up and became a professional team which is when I got involved and was racing with them, and then stepping up and up. Definitely a lot of strong teams in North America, from a few years ago where there was only one or two dominant teams I think now it’s spread more evenly.
Glen: I look at some of the rosters of the other teams and I can see that they are gearing up for more of sprint finishes or criteriums. Some of the other teams have got a mix between criterium and tour racing guys. We’re probably more geared towards the tours and the bigger one day races. Obviously, Aaron Olson, two-time Giro finish, I mean huge … brings a lot of ability to the team and a little bit of leadership. Ben has already shown that he can be a leader of the team. Burke’s a true professional, so you had those guys together, then they can work off each other. Ben was definitely the go-to guy this past season, he will be the go-to guy this coming season but there will be less pressure now that we have Aaron, we have Jeremy, we have Richard England, we have these other guys that can easily step in and it gives us more options in the races. Instead of all the teams looking at what’s Ben going to do, if Aaron gets away what are they going to about Aaron, he can ride off the front for 5 hours by himself. Burke goes on a hill climb, it’s just not a one man show anymore, we definitely have a lot more options and that’s probably our biggest asset going into this year.
The team was aggressive at the Tour of California, with Tom Zirbel showcasing his strength in the last stage, driving a solo attack in the driving rain. Riders, such as Scott Zwizanski, Ben Jacues-Maynes and Graham Howard won many of the preparation races to the domestic season, and Burke Swindlehurst finished third overall in the Redlands Bicycle Classic, the first race of the NRC calendar.