Rejuvenated CalGiant Ready for the Season

Posted on 24. Mar, 2010 by in interviews

At the San Dimas Stage, CalGiant Specialized unleashed what Directeur Sportif Anthony Gallino called his “secret weapons” while at training camp earlier this year, Australian Mountain Bike National Champion Sid Taberlay and U23 rider Andrew Talansky.

Sid Taberlay (CalGiant) finished second overall at San Dimas Stage Race

Sid Taberlay (CalGiant) finished second overall at San Dimas Stage Race

“I had fun, it was good.” said Taberlay who finished second overall at eight seconds from the overall winner Ben Day (Fly V Australia). When he decided he wanted to add road racing to his repertoire this year Taberlay made a call to Gallino.

“I hadn’t done road racing for awhile and I had a desire to get back on the road and do some racing and it’s always good cross training for the mountain bike. It’s working out.” said Taberlay who guest-rode with CalGiant at 2006 Redlands Bicycle Classic. “It’s a good crossover with our Sho-Air Specialized team with a Specialized connection. Connections really.”

By finishing sixth overall, Talansky won the U25 competition and took home the white jersey which was a personal goal for him at the race.

“Training as been going well and more than that, I really wanted to see where I compared overall to everybody else. The white jersey by racing well I knew would just come with it.” said Talansky. “In the uphill time trial, I was fifth, I felt good, I rode well I was happy. It’s still early and everybody is coming into form so it’s good start.”

Both are new riders for the rejuvenated team on its ninth season of existence and seventh season as a national elite amateur team. Earlier this year, I spent some time with the team at its training camp in Watsonville, California.

Feeling the pain at the Merco Cycling Classic Team Time Trial

Feeling the pain at the Merco Cycling Classic Team Time Trial

The team has always been a mix of still developing young talent and older riders and this year, Gallino took advantage of riders leaving or retiring to shuffle the roster.

“It’s been a development squad but it’s also given guys like John [Hunt] and James [Mattis] that have ridden professionally before, they still have that passion to race, they’ve built their lifestyle around work and racing and now they can mentor the young kids because that’s what they want to do. We decided that we wanted five U23 and we got them and we’re totally stoked on who we got.” Gallino said that he received 200 resumes to fill eight open spots on his team.

“I’ve had guys that have ridden on pro teams and our team and the amount of support that they get here is as good if not better than what they get there minus the contract. I have a philosophy if I pay one, I pay them all. And I think that’s been a key factor in the success of this program is that I’ve never paid a rider and the chemistry that everybody is treated equally is just huge. Anyone of these guys will slay it for the others in any race that we decide who we’re riding for.” explained Gallino.

What are they trying to teach the development riders? “To believe in themselves, to be aggressive, to rely on your teammates, all the same things that have worked for us for results in the past. Give themselves time to develop.” said John Hunt who has been racing nineteen years this year, “seriously” for fourteen years

“I’m looking to gain experience and hopefully go to an NRC race and be able to help the team, I’m not in a position to get results at that type of race. I just want to learn from the guys and hopefully help them.” said Tyler Brandt who is studying Integrated Biology at UC Berkeley.

For the 44-year old Hunt, the teaching is done mostly by just being around each other. “Weekend by weekend, you’re spending forty-eight period with them. A stage race with travel and everything you’re together for a week and you try to relay what you know whether its conversations of things that have happened or things that happen day to day while racing, showing things that you know work for preparation, habits of how they conduct themselves to rest and maximize recovery, all things like that.”

“Tactics.” replied 19-year old Brandt when asked one thing he wanted to learn. Brandt had just upgraded to Cat1. “It comes along when you’re racing, you come to a point where what should I have done in this position, it’s hard for me to determine what that is at this moment. You’re in a break with a certain group of guys and someone like John Hunt or Jesse Moore have been in that situation before, you make your decision on the spot, afterwards you say I did this, do you think that was the right choice.”

Goals. One goal is the Best Team classification of the Northern California and Nevada Cycling Association (NCNCA), which the team has won for the past five years. The competition should be fiercer this year with the new Yahoo! Cycling team.

Another goal is a stage win or podium at NRC races. And finally the top step at U23 National Championships and Elite National Championships. The team has planned between eight and ten NRC races this year, including Redlands Bicycle Classic, Tour of the Gila, Joe Martin Stage Race, Cascade Cycling Classic, Boise Criterium and Manhattan Beach Grand Prix.

CalGiant rides at training camp

CalGiant rides at training camp

Espoirs. The five U23 riders are Brandt, Talansky, Chris Stasny, Brandon Trafton and Julian Martinez.

“That kid is an awesome talent, we watched him last year at Tour de Nez and some other races, he had one teammate and he was out there. We’re super excited and we expect real big things from Andrew, that’s kind of the secret weapon. “ said Gallino about Talansky. “Riding by himself last year, a lot of the bigger teams, they kind of knew who he was ‘oh yeah that’s the guy that’s always in the break’ when he’s got a full squad around him what can he do?”

Gallino got a call about Brandt last year but the rider was just too young at that time. He did keep an eye out on him and watched him all through 2009. “It was awesome to watch him progress. That was one of the first guys we grabbed, we think he’s an up and comer.”

Tyler Brandt (CalGiant) at San Dimas Stage Race

Tyler Brandt (CalGiant) at San Dimas Stage Race

Brandt is in it all the way. “Hopefully the Tour de France, basically go to Europe and compete at the highest level.”

Stasny was noticed at the Fourth of July Criterium in Davis, California. “A couple of our sprinters at Davis crit said ‘man this guy is fast’. He came around Briggs and a couple of other ones. He attacked on the last lap and held it. When the guys come back from races and say ‘hey we have to watch this kid’, you do.”

Trafton is “raw” and “green”, just what Gallino wants as the team watched him ride guys off his wheel while in breaks in a couple of races last year. “He’s got power and as long as we can keep him up on his bike, we’ll be alright. He’s got some serious potential and getting those old guys to mentor him we’ll seen what we can do.”

Student at UCSC, Martinez was the sole U23 rider last year. “He rode for us at the Tour of Pennsylvania, a good little climber. “

Gallino is excited about having a squad he can bring to US U23 National Championships to go head to head against Trek-Livestrong and Holowesko Partners U23 teams.

“You look at Teejay last year, he’s probably the strongest rider out there but he missed the move and he had no one to get it back and there you go. Now going into Nationals, we have a guy that we know we’re going to ride for and we’ll get him into the right move.” said Gallino.

Full circle. Last July, Taylor Tolleson was struck by a car while riding his motorcycle and subsequently dragged for 300 feet according to police reports. Tolleson can’t talk about that day due to legal ramifications.

“I’m still in pain every day.” said Tolleson when we talked at training camp. He suffered extensive injuries. “A torn meniscus, torn ACL, torn PCL, tore the main tendon in my ankle, broke my L1 vertebrae, I had subdural hematoma, over 100 stitches in my face, dislodged five ribs” and more.

Taylor Tolleson then with BMC at the start of the 2008 Redlands Bicycle Classic

Taylor Tolleson then with BMC at the start of the 2008 Redlands Bicycle Classic

That day brought a halt to his professional cycling career for the 24-year old who was then riding with the BMC Racing team after a year with Slipstream. Now he’s back with CalGiant. “It’s kind of a big full circle. Anthony took me to Cascade when I was nineteen. That was the springboard for me to turn pro.”

“My plan is to try and get back to where I was before which may take all season. Anthony was cool to sign me, nobody else would take a chance on me, I couldn’t find a ride, not a single team would pick me up again. I’m just going to try to get back to where I was before, maybe even better who knows.”

“The doctor say that it’s just going to take time, I don’t have a lot of time.” said Tolleson who is now working a regular job in a bicycle shop, along with his recovery which includes physical therapy.

It’s been tough. “Sometimes I want to do things and I can’t, I literally sometimes can not do things and that’s a new experience for me, I’ve never before in my life not been able to do something physical because of my body ever. So it’s a whole new area that I’m not familiar with and I do not like it very much at all. Just one day at a time, try to do as much as I can do every day, try to be as smart as I can about it, try not to do too much, not do too little.”

But Tolleson is not giving up. “You can’t quit doing what you love to do especially after you almost got killed basically. I love riding bikes, I love racing bikes.”

Good business. DS is not Gallino’s day job. “I’m VP of Sales at California Giant, my real job is to sell strawberries, I’ve got to sell twenty million of those every year.” he laughed.

“We have a message.” For Gallino, sponsoring an elite cycling team is sound business. “This is a great way to promote our company, we’re a fresh fruit company that grows strawberries and raspberries, blackberries and blueberries and what a great tie-in with a healthy lifestyle and a healthy diet, whereas you look at all these other flooring companies and all this, we have a direct tie-in.”

One example he provided was BJ’s Wholesale Club out of the North East. A call was made when they expressed interest in sponsoring the UCI Cross race in Providence, and from then CalGiant

“We actually brought in riders to sit down in the club and do a full demo of strawberries where people could come by, taste them, talk to the riders about what they can do about health and fitness, about a healthy diet, about strawberries and they had them for sale right there.” said Gallino about the experience at the wholesale club in Providence. “They sold two pallets in each club each day which in October is unheard of. So they were just blown away on the numbers. So that’s the kind of stuff that we do once we get the retail involved then it’s a no brainer for us.”

A final sprint after a long and wet training ride

A final sprint after a long and wet training ride

Success. The team has gone through a few incarnations throughout the years, starting with five guys rolling out for a group ride in Watsonville. In 2003, it was a club team. In 2004, the team was called Red Edge after a partnership with the California Strawberry Commission that fell through due to a management re-shuffle. Then they partnered with Village Peddler who had an elite squad and that relationship brought about the connection with Specialized.

“And then it just got bigger and bigger, we started winning. Then Specialized said you know what we’re going to take this over ourselves and then I just started dealing direct with Specialized.” said Gallino. “Specialized doesn’t have a domestic pro team so basically we’re their guinea pigs and the amount of support that we get from our product sponsors is phenomenal. We’ve been in it long enough that we’re not considered a one hit wonder.”

Throughout the years riders that have gone through the program and graduated to the pro ranks include Lucas Euser, Max Jenkins and Taylor Tolleson on the road.

It’s not just road however. “The ‘cross was the first thing that I did.” explained Gallino. “We sponsored Justin Robinson and Ben Jacques-Maynes for two years and that was during the same time as the Red Edge then I just combined it within the road program and away we went.”

“We’ve been on the podium each year, between 65 and 70 percent of the time locally throughout the year with our schedule.” said Gallino. “We’ve one Crit Nats two years in a row and Road Nats one of the last three that went to and then we won U23 with Max in ’07. Since ’07 we’ve had a National Championship which is cool. And then you throw Cross on that.”

In 2009, Cody Kaiser won the USA National Jr 17/18 Cyclocross Championship and Meredith Miller finished second in the USA National Cyclocross Championships.

“I think it’s kind of like a family in a way” replied Hunt about what makes the team a success. “Results driven but not overly so, always balanced by fun and really trying to enjoy what you’re doing because that has to be part of the journey, it can’t just be all results or else because it’s negative and no one has fun.”

Hunt added. “Anthony is a big part of that, he is an organized and enthusiastic director and he’s doing it because he enjoys it, cycling is an outlet for him and it’s fun.”

The first NRC race for the team will be the Redlands Bicycle Classic.

“When we first showed up ‘what are you doing here’, and now after having some results and the guys knowing who we are, what guys we have and what we’re capable of doing they’ve actually given us a lot of respect in the peloton to where we come up and we’re riding together, we have a spot on the front and if they need to chase something back and we’re not in it, we’re expected to help. “ said Gallino about the reception his team has gotten throughout the years at NRC races. “Which is really cool to see, sure there’s still some of the jackasses and it’s funny, I’ve had a lot of those guys ask me for a ride because they’re not riding in the pro ranks anymore and that’s not the kind of chemistry that we want on this squad.”

The CalGiant roster for Redlands is James Mattis, Steve Reaney, Jesse Moore, Jared Barrilleaux, Ozzie Olmos, Andrew Talansky, Taylor Tolleson and Chris Stasny.

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