What do Tyler Farrar, Adrian Hegyvary, Carl Decker, Svein Tuft and Kiel Reijnen have in common? The five, along with 17 other riders, graduated from the amateur Hagens Berman Cycling Team onto the pro ranks.
“We’ve been churning out guys for a long time. It’s been over ten years.” explained Sports Director Joe Holmes. “We’re a professional development team, a bit like grad school before hopefully they go with their career as a pro or decide that it’s not for them. Our mission is to provide the resources to get out there, give them the experience and exposure and then hopefully take that next step.”
Or as Holmes said with a bit of a laugh, “the best team you’ve never heard of”.
Based in the Pacific Northwest, first sponsored by Broadmark Capital the pro-am team hit the scene in 2001. Hagens Berman LLC took over the title sponsorship in 2007 and increased its funding for the next season.
“We’ve expanded our roster, we’ll be supporting more guys next year and we’re going to try to do the split squads and put some emphasis on this new National Crit Calendar as well as the traditional stage races that we do.” said Holmes who added with a laugh, “ Maybe have somebody at some of the bigger races to help me, not doing everything which would be nice.”
Life skills. The mission is to develop young talent. “It’s more than just ride their bikes fast. You have to be the full package, sort of a little bit of life skills too.” replied Holmes when asked what is the first thing he tries to teach his young recruits.
One example is young and very talented 15-year old Logan Owen. “I work with him personally, I’ve been working with him for three years now.” Holmes said. “He travels a lot with me to the races so I’m always saying look for something to do. Is the bike clean? Can you pitch in with helping with the bottles, because we don’t have a soigneur, we don’t have a mechanic. Just trying to get the guys to be self-sufficient and understand that if they get to a point with a KBS or UHC or anther team that it’s not magic that the trainers, chairs and stuff are suddenly there, there are people behind the scenes.”
“When I was their age, I made a lot of mistakes and it really truly is the old cliché, if I’d only known then what I know now. Obviously guys like Jonas Carney or Gord Fraser or somebody like that, bring a tremendous level of professional achievement at the high end of the sport. I’m kind of the opposite of that, I was a crap show,” Holmes laughs, “but fortunately, I’d like to think that I evolved, and I can tell them the pitfalls and the things not to do, hey learn from my mistakes, don’t make them yourself.”
And of course the business of racing bikes. “And then work together as a team, all the stuff you always hear as far as teamwork and all that. I think a big part of the package is having your act together.”
The team typically doesn’t hire riders older than 27 years of age due to the UCI rule that limits the number of riders of that age on Continental teams. “Ideally 26 is the oldest that we’d like to have because of the over/under situation with the Continental teams. We have had some expectations where it’s been guys with a little bit more experience, to help out the younger guys.”
Success. For Holmes, the support from sponsors has been key to making the program successful. “We’ve had some really good sponsors. Hagens Berman in particular has been the sponsor since I’ve been involved.” said Holmes who has been with the team for three years. “Steve Berman is the primary guy there. He definitely loves cycling and wants to support cycling.”
“We’ve got really good industry support too. I think that a lot of our industry partners understand that we are very serious as far as developing young guys.” added Holmes. “I think it’s just been the support of the sponsors, support of the people involved with the program itself, the club members that are supportive of what we’re trying to do, and having people involved that can help direct these guys. It hasn’t really changed, consistency I think has been key too.”
“I think it’s just been the support of the sponsors, support of the people involved with the program itself, the club members that are supportive of what we’re trying to do, and having people involved that can help direct these guys. It hasn’t really changed, consistency I think has been key too.”
His proudest moments are seeing riders move on to pro teams. “Working with this amateur program and trying to help develop these guys as riders and as a complete package, I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of that. Just being in the sport a long time, almost 30 years and I really enjoy giving back. I’ve tried to quit the sport many times and I haven’t found a 12 steps program that works,” laughed Holmes, “so I’m a lifer and it’s fun to give back.”
Riders like Hegyvary who moved on to UnitedHealthcare a couple of years ago. “Helping develop these guys is the thing that I’m the proudest of. I tell the guys I’ve said it every year and I’ll say it at our first team meeting for next year that my goal is to have as few of them around next year as possible. And that hopefully they’ve moved on to another team. That was the thing that (UHC Sports Director Mike) Tamayo asked me about Hegyvary, well if he’s so great why are you trying to pitch him to me? I told him that’ my job. My job is to get them ready for the next step to a program like yours, my job is not to keep these guys around.” stated Holmes.
“I think that there need to be programs like ours, there needs to be a development pipeline in this country where we’re about giving these young guys a chance.” added Holmes who went on to list a few of the other successful development programs out there such as Team Rio Grande, bikereg.com and California Giant/Specialized.
The latest rider to graduate is Chris Parrish who will be joining a UCI Continental team next year.
Looking forwards. “I’m really excited about our crew next year too.” said Holmes. “We got a really good group of guys.”
Nine riders, Ian Crane, Steve Fisher, Dan Bechtold, Cody Campbell, Kennett Peterson, Chris Wingfield, Colin Gibson and Owen will be returning for 2012.
“The junior Logan will be racing with the elite team. He went to the 15/16 in Izegem with the US 15/16 program and he won two kermesses and he won the overall points jersey at the Tour of West Flanders.” said Holmes.
The team also has an affiliation with the Rad Racing program. “We’ve taken some guys from their program and Ian Crane and Steve Fisher came out of Rad. Crane got fourth at the Doylestown Crit which is the last race of the year together as a team, the day after Univest. That was a huge result too.”
New to the team in 2012 are Jonathan Hornbeck, Jesse Reams, Danny Heeley, David Fleischhauer and Gabe Varela.
Though the team will once again register as an Elite Domestic team with USA Cycling, Holmes wants to make that all the promoters remember the team when they issue invitations to races.
He would like to avoid situations like the 2011 Redlands Bicycle Classic. “I got the email that was ‘sorry to inform you, a lot of really good team application, had to make hard choices, blah blah blah, regret to inform you that you won’t be able to do Redlands this year’. I fired an email off to him that started out, ‘to say that this is a surprise is an understatement, and I preceded to list what our program was about’, and a couple of hours later I got an email back ‘we decided to include one more team and you guys are it’. “
“We want to make sure that all the promoters out there that when it comes time to invite, to remember who we are and what we’re about.” concluded Holmes. “We deserve to be there because this is what we do and this is our track record.”