“I just had this conversation with the guys, I love this sport, I love all our sponsors and I like what I’m doing right now. “ said Danny Van Haute, Team Director of the Jelly Belly presented by Kenda cycling team, who takes pride in the fact that he has been at the helm of the squad with the longest running title sponsor in US cycling.
The Jelly Belly Candy Company is entering its eleventh year with the team and signed up for two more years starting in 2010. The long-term partnership was key to bringing other sponsors this year, “that has to show other sponsors like Focus,” said Van Haute, “the reason that they picked us, there must be something here in this organization.”
“I think all of our sponsors see that and I think our riders see it, whatever you want to call it, job security, they’re not going to screw you around, you’re going to get paid, you wont to have to go to court. You hear every year, somebody is going to the UCI to get their money. We’re not the highest paying budget team but they get paid, the word on the street is that Danny Van Haute is fair, he takes care of his riders, he takes care of his team.” continued Van Haute.
“A lot has changed,” said returning rider Jeremy Powers who has been the longest with the squad, seven years so far. “I’ve ridden with so many cool riders, Jonas Carney, Alex Candelario, Danny Pate, Kirk Albers, just tons of knowledge that came down through the years. And now there are a couple of kids here, twenty years old, up and coming, they’re in the same spot that I was in the first year, getting yelled at for not wearing the right arm warmers or this and that’s so cool.”
Develop but win. “At first when we started this team, I was mad at some of the riders that were leaving for some better teams,” admitted Van Haute, “we were losing riders for whatever reason, money or they just wanted to go ride for a European team or … and ‘hey I developed you guys, took care of you for a year or two years’.”
But that’s all changed now as Van Haute happily pointed out that three riders at the Tour de France last year went through the Jelly Belly program: Tyler Farrar, Jason McCartney and Christian Vande Velde. And he wants his young riders to move on after a few years to bigger teams. “I think it’s a pat on our whole organization from our sponsors to me, I take pride in that but we have to win races.”
But not win just any race. “What our main objective is and what I told the guys is every year we win twenty races but what are the quality of those races? Probably fifteen of those races were local races, we don’t get much out of that, we’re not going to graduate to the next level with races like that. It’s fun to win but our goal is to win some races in the bigger events, the 2.HC races, the 1.1 Philly, not all the NRC are big caliber races. We won Tulsa last year and what did we get out of it? We got a little blurb on velonews.” he shrugged.
“Everybody knows Jelly Belly but when it comes to results it’s not quite there yet. I’m honest and I’m sure a lot of people think the same but that’s going to change this year.” said a confident Van Haute.
The three main goals for the year start with the Amgen Tour of California, “whatever that may be, winning a stage, top 15 in GC we have to be realistic too. Being in May now I think helps all the US teams that get invited.”
Second are the US Pro National Championships, both criterium and road, “I think that Brad is one of the top sprinters in the country and I know that the team is going to back him and that is another goal. The road stuff with Kiel, we have some good climbers. I think Mike can make it over the climb and sprint and if Brad is in the condition that he was two years ago there’s not stopping us.”
And the third major target is the Tour of Missouri at the end of the season.
“Teamwork” replied Van Haute when asked how one creates a team to get those results. Seven new riders, from neo-pros to veterans, were added to the roster joining a core of five returning riders, Brad Huff, Bernard Van Ulden, Will Routley, Kiel Reijnen and Powers.
“The cool thing is that we have a lot of guys and not a lot of egos, and that’s good.” said Powers. “We have a lot of guys that are solid, veterans and we have a lot of young guys that want to learn from them so there’s no one here that says I’m going to be the guy, this is going to be my team. So we can come into each race with a couple of guys that can potentially do well, take a laid back approach into how we’re going to dissect those races and the best guy will be the guy that we work for. We’ve always had a very light easy going attitude and I think we’re going to have a lot of good races, we’ve had a lot of camaraderie, all around it’s been great.”
New rider Jonathan Chodroff agrees. “It’s a strong team this year, I think it’s going to be different this year for Jelly Belly, we can go to every race and be pretty confident that we have a chance at winning it. There are so many guys on the team already that I can look up to and I know that I’m going to learn from them.”
After years of racing in Europe with Garmin-Slipstream, Olympian Mike Friedman is making a return to US racing with Jelly Belly. Also joining from the Colavita/Sutter Home team is veteran climber Anthony Colby. “He likes the long ones and a lot of our races, a lot of races like Qinghai Lake is at altitude, he lives at altitude so that helps” said Van Haute about Colby.
Bringing in time trialing expertise is Chodroff who raced last year with the OUCH presented by Maxxis squad. On his second year as pro and a late starter to the sport, the 24-year old just wants to race and race a lot. “It’s been 3.5 years for me [in the sport], it’s just repetition, hours on the bike racing at the high level. With Jelly Belly, it’s a smaller team with ten riders on the pro team with two U23 guys, I’m assuming to get these race starts, honestly that’s what I really want, to race my butt of. Being able to travel a lot too which is kind of cool, doing more foreign races in Asia.” And if he can win a big time trial this year, well even better.
Also new to the team is veteran Will Dickeson from the Australia Savings and Loan team. “He’s a good domestique, a fairly good time trialist so that was another piece of the puzzle that we needed.” said Van Haute. Neo-pro Sean Mazich joined from the Waste Management team which was the feeder team for Jelly Belly until they called it quits at the end of last year.
Two additional riders Jacob Rathe and Carter Jones will ride for the U23 National Team and will join Jelly Belly at key races. “I’ve always been about development and the youth, I’ve always had a program with the USA Cycling Development team.” said Van Haute. “Hopefully they’ll come back to us next year with all the experience in the hard races and they’ll race for us and two, three years and down the road they’re with a ProTour team. There are stages, you just don’t come out of the U23 program and ride ProTour races, unless you’re World Champion.”
The 26-year old Powers is looking forwards to mentoring the younger riders. “It’s a good thing to see, clone another person, I like to pass that knowledge down in the easiest way possible. We have a lot of talent, a lot of young guys to pass that stuff down to, this sport is so hard, it’s good to pass that stuff off so it’s hard to anyone to make it, if we can push that stuff down it’s great.”
Bonding through misery. On the last Saturday of the team training camp, Van Haute set up an adventure with the Navy Seals.
“It was so much fun, and hard. For three hours we did everything that the Seals do to recruit, we were in the cold water, we’re freezing then we had to do sit ups and push ups,” said Van Haute. “We had to rely on your partner and your team to get you out of the water. Some guys tripped in the water, we had to wait for them and help them up.”
“That was a little brutal.” chuckled Powers who had been feeling the effects of a late night out with a relative the Friday night before the Seals experience. “I woke up to jumping into the Pacific Ocean so that was pretty sweet and I’d have to say that I did not expect that.”
“We had pretty bad weather, 50 and rainy, the pacific ocean is pretty cold right now. The cold factor was pretty rough, jumping in the water every ten minutes and rolling around in the sand.” explained Chodroff. “All of us could barely walk the next day. Being cyclists we don’t run much or lift heavy things, we were lifting cinder blocks and carrying each other, everyone has to he careful jumping into a car because they’re afraid that their hip flexor or hamstring are going to lock up and cramp so it’s somewhat pathetic but funny.”
“As the instructor, Larry said, through the misery we definitely found a good place, we were able to take a lot from that, it really is good. As much as it sucked, we all raised our hands today when asked if we’d do it again.” smiled Powers.
“It was really good, my crew coach was a Navy Seals so it kind of brought back memories of that,” continued Chodroff, “it wasn’t as extreme as it was, it was good. It just taught us to trust each other, I think it will be useful in the long run for teamwork and trust.”
Returning riders are Brad Huff, Bernard Van Ulden, Will Routley, Kiel Reijnen and Jeremy Powers.
New riders to the team are Anthony Colby, Mike Friedman, Jonathan Chodroff, Will Dickeson, Sean Mazich, Carter Jones and Jacob Rathe.
See all photos from training camp here