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USA Pro Cycling Challenge surprises with Continental invites

Two top U.S. development programs will get a taste of the world’s elite peloton in August when the Chipotle Development and Trek-Livestrong squads are among the starters at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. VeloNews has learned that the two Continental teams are among five new invitees to the inaugural Colorado tour.

Joining Chipotle and Trek in the latest revelation of teams for the seven-day Colorado stage race will be fellow Continental squads Bissell, Exergy and Jelly Belly-Kenda. Race co-chair Shawn Hunter said the decision on the race’s first-year invitations was challenging.

“There are many worthy teams to invite and this was a difficult decision,” he told VeloNews. “We analyzed a number of factors including recent performance as well as who may be peaking at our event in order to have an exciting line-up in our race in its inaugural year.”

The latest invitations bring the total number of teams to 16, the number organizers aimed for when launching the event last fall. Two surprising omissions from the startlist are top U.S. squads Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth and Realcyclist.com. Francisco Mancebo has been nearly untouchable for Realcyclist.com in North American stage races this season, racking up wins at the Tour de Beauce, Tour of the Gila and Redlands Classic, among others. Kelly Benefit Strategies most recently won the overall at the Nature Valley Grand Prix, vied for the KOM jersey at the Tour of California in May and features a director and three riders based in Colorado.

When asked about the exclusion of Realcyclist.com and KBS, a race spokesperson said that they would not comment on a specific team, but that the team selection was, “about providing well-balanced roster that is full of excitement and promise for our inaugural year.”

The five new teams join 11 squads announced earlier this year, including ProTeams Garmin-Cervélo and RadioShack. Chipotle and Trek are feeder squads for their top-level counterparts, respectively. Hunter said that by including all four teams, the race could provide a showcase for young American talent.

“We want this to be America’s race,” he said. “It’s important that we create a platform for the next American hopeful to perform against the world’s best. This is their chance to be recognized. A great example of this is Taylor Phinney who was on Trek-Livestrong just last year. Now he’s a pro rider known worldwide for his accomplishments on one of the most respected teams in the industry. We’d love to see a rider make that leap from competing in our race.”

UCI rules prohibit the inclusion of two rosters for a single team in any race, but Chipotle and Trek both hold their own Continental licenses and thus fall outside the scope of this rule.

The inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge will take place August 22-28 and is a UCI 2.1-level event.

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