“I think for the US Continental teams competing against the ProTeams, which we do once or twice a year, it may be difficult to win a stage but you always have that hope, you have to take chances.” Jelly Belly p/b Kenda Directeur Sportif Danny Van Haute said during a chat yesterday.
Taking chances with timing of attacks and getting into breaks. “For instance, look at our guy last week, Brad Huff at Dana Point won but he took off with 600 meters to go, and he won by a bike length, that’s taking a chance. I think the two stages ago at the Giro, David Millar was in breakaway, the breakaway stayed and he was in the pink jersey for a day.”
Van Haute added, “I think that’s the attitude we have to have to, and the Pro Continental teams in US have to have the same attitude. We have to be aggressive and take chances, and hopefully one of those days, we’ll be on the podium.”
Doing well in the biggest race in the US is not only great morale-wise for the team but also great for business. “If we do well here in a couple of stages, I think that will help secure more sponsors, I hope, I always think that. If you look over the past Tour of California, if you do well, you secure the sponsors that you already have and maybe draw in some more. Is this one of the highlights of the year? Absolutely.”
Another goal is to set up the only sprinter on the roster, Ken Hanson, for the sprint finishes in the early stages. “To get Ken to the finish as close as possible to the front and then let him go on his own. I know we’re not strong enough to lead him out and if we can get him near the front once we get on the circuits with 10 km, I think Ken has enough power to stay with the big boys to the finish.”
Winner of the Oceanic Games time trial, Will Dickeson is hoping to get a good result in the time trial to secure a spot at the World Championships. “The Australian Federation told him that has to do well in some other time trial and this is one of them.” Van Haute explained. “If he does really well, what is really well for him or what are they looking for? Probably a top 20, 25 placing, that will be really good for us and for him.”
The only team to have raced every edition of the race, with the same title sponsor, Jelly Belly has experienced highs and lows. One of those lows came in 2006, when Andy Bajadali, poised for a top 25 GC finish, crashed out with a broken collarbone with three stages to go.
“The highs have always been every year we have a chance to win the most aggressive jersey, and we do.” said Van Haute. Last year, it was Will Routley‘s turn to stand on the podium to accept the Most Courageous jersey. “We get on stage in front to 50 to 100 thousand people and on TV, I’m pretty happy about that, I get excited. I’ve been excited for the last 10 days to get this race underway.”
The team is ready. “We did a 9-day stage race in Korea, we did some speed work, the boys are well rested.” The move to May gave an opportunity to get some hard racing into their legs with the Tour of Korea where Hanson won the final stage.
But only one preparation stage race this year. Van Haute explained, “I learned a lesson last year, we did the Tour of Thailand, the Tour of Korea and the Tour of California back to back with some of the same guys, they were spent, with three or four days to go at the Tour of California last year, they were very very tired.”
One rider that could surprise is neo-pro Nic Hamilton. “Our boy from Canada there Nic Hamilton is ready to go. We saw a lot out of him in Korea, for a first UCI race for him, he had a couple bad spills, he was a hurting and he gave us a hundred and ten percent , I saw a lot out of him, he’s going to do well here. “
Van Haute is excited to get the race started. “It’s the big show for all the teams in the US, it’s the biggest race in the US. I even painted the inside of the trailer, it looks like it’s new.” he finished with a laugh.
Jelly Belly p/b Kenda roster for California consists of Australians Will Dickeson and Alastair Loutit, Americans Alex Hagman, Ken Hanson, Sergio Hernandez, Jeremy Powers and Bernard van Ulden and Canadian Nic Hamilton.