Inside the Caravan with Omer Kem: Redlands

"As a team we ended it in second place overall by one second. Who knew second place would be such a hard pill to swallow?"

Editor’s note: This is the fourth of a new regular column on, written by Omer Kem, the new head director of the Bissell Pro Cycling team. The column givse an inside-the-caravan view of the domestic race scene this year.

Bissel's Ben Jacques-Maynes casts a glance at his GC co-leader Francisco Mancebo ( late in stage 3 at Redlands. Photo: Wil Matthews |

I am sitting on a airplane flying over the state of California. My last journal entry was also written while sitting in a airplane. I honestly can’t remember if I mentioned it. I probably did, maybe I should open every journal entry that way …

Redlands is over. As a team we ended it in second place overall by one second I believe. In 2010 the team ended Redlands in the same position. But that is where the similarities end. In 2011 we took chances and sacrificed everything for the overall victory. We almost did it, but almost isn’t enough. Who knew second place would be such a hard pill to swallow.

Personally, I am blown away by my riders and staff. They are beyond my expectations in their ability to believe in themselves and sacrifice for each other. We raced like a team and lost two top-10 positions in the pursuit of first place. Was it worth it even though we didn’t win? Yes. Do I look back and think about my mistakes? Yes. Do I regret those decisions? No … We did the best we could with what we were given in terms of information and more importantly legs. I couldn’t be prouder of my team and what we showed over four days of racing. It’s a long season and this experience will fuel the fire through out the 2011 season. The guys will go home and train and they will think about Redlands and it will sharpen their conviction to win and race as a team. I can’t wait to see them race again.

As a final thought when I think about the last four days, I struggle with how to put my emotions into words. It’s easy for me to talk about how I feel about my guys, my amazing staff and how the race played out.

What I am struggling to deal with are my feelings about the lessons I learned and how to handle this job when things get bad or don’t go my way. I never want to hear excuses from my guys and they certainly don’t deserve to hear them from me. The feeling of loss is so much different than when I was a rider. I think this stems from the physical exhaustion that comes from actually racing. I don’t get that now and it leaves me thinking about what I could have done differently. With the information I was given, I made the best decisions I could for the team but it didn’t work out and I have a huge feeling of failure.

This is something that I will continue to deal with as the season progresses but I don’t want to make the same mistakes twice. All I can do is try but I hate feeling like I let my team down. We are all in this together and I have a amazing group of people. Next time I will try harder because I know that we all have the same focus: To win …

Thanks for reading.

—Omer Kem

Bissell Pro Cycling

Omer Kem lives in Oregon with his wife. In addition to driving the team car for Bissell Pro Cycling, he is the membership director for the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association and a cycling coach. You can follow him at, @bissellcycling and @okracing. Please feel free to contact him at