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A conversation with Bissell Boss Glen Mitchell

Domestic team Bissell opened up its caravan vehicle passenger seat to VeloNews during stage 2 of the Tour de Georgia. And with four and a half hours of racing, there was plenty of time for small talk with team director Glen Mitchell. Mitchell, a two-time member of New Zealand Olympic teams, spent much of his career riding for North American teams, including Navigators Insurance, Sierra Nevada and Priority Health, before retiring in 2006. Last year he took a position behind the wheel at Priority Health, which became Bissell in 2008.

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By Neal Rogers

Mitchell after stage 2.

Mitchell after stage 2.

Photo: Neal Rogers

Domestic team Bissell opened up its caravan vehicle passenger seat to VeloNews during stage 2 of the Tour de Georgia. And with four and a half hours of racing, there was plenty of time for small talk with team director Glen Mitchell.

Mitchell, a two-time member of New Zealand Olympic teams, spent much of his career riding for North American teams, including Navigators Insurance, Sierra Nevada and Priority Health, before retiring in 2006. Last year he took a position behind the wheel at Priority Health, which became Bissell in 2008.

VeloNews: What are the team’s objectives at the Tour de Georgia?

Glen Mitchell: Today the objective was to try to get into an early move if there was

VN: What are your thoughts on the race organization banning time trial bikes for the team time trial? It’s an unusual situation for an event to tell the riders what kind of equipment they can or can’t use.

GM: Personally I would have liked to seen the [time trial equipment] in there. This is one of the top races in the U.S. Every team has spent money on equipment and testing; that is the level where the sport is now. We’ve spent money on the wind tunnel, and with the strength of our team we will be looking for a good performance. And the time trial equipment gives the fans the glitter and the jazz. It’s a chance to look at the disc wheels and aerodynamic helmets and skinsuits and to see all eight riders on the same bikes and wheels. That’s pretty spectacular, that would have been something you don’t see that often, particularly in the United States.

VN: How do you see GC shaking out at this race?

GM: With no individual time trial and the team time trial not until Thursday, some of the teams have to take responsibility for the race without even having the leader’s jersey. The Brasstown climb is obviously the big day, and following that [in significance] is how the team performs at the team time trial. So teams will need to have a good climber and a strong team to be in position where they aren’t behind their competitors too much going into the climb.

VN: It’s still only April, but how has the season gone for Bissell thus far?

GM: Very good. The way the calendar is shaped up, it’s still early. The Tour of California was obviously the kickoff, and we were delighted with the way we raced there. Ben and Tom had outstanding performances in the time trial, and finishing it off with Tom riding 25 miles solo and close to taking the last stage ended California on a highlight for us. A lot of the NRC races that used to be in March aren’t NRC races any more, so there’s been a little hole in the schedule.

VN: Those races — Merced, Visalia, San Dimas — are still around, they’re just not NRC events.

GM: Right. We sent three or four guys to a few of them, but not a full team. The first NRC race was Redlands, and that was a bit mixed for us. We lost Omar Kem with a broken collarbone but managed to advance Burke Swindlehurst into third overall. We were delighted to have someone on the podium in the final classification

VN: Who is your GC guy here in Georgia?

GM: Jeremy Vennell is our best climber, and Burke is our best high-altitude climber. [Vennell crashed during the stage 2 approach to Augusta, but was not seriously hurt. –ed] Once we go to races like the Tour of the Gila, Mt. Hood, Cascade Classic, the Tour of Utah and Colorado — we know how we can perform at those races. Anything with long climbs we’ve got a rider who can perform very well. Burke isn’t here in Georgia because Gila starts two days after this ends, and we didn’t want to overextend him. Gila is a race he’s targeted; he’s a multi-time winner.

Vennell after his crash on stage 2

Vennell after his crash on stage 2

Photo: Neal Rogers

VN: What did you think about Rock Racing getting in the race at the last minute after threatening to sue the race organization?

GM: I guess that’s the Rock Racing way. There always seems to be a little bit of controversy with them, and this race is no different.

VN: One last question — you’re from New Zealand, what do you think about the Flight of the Conchords?

GM: That’s some of the funniest stuff I’ve seen in a long time. It definitely has a distinct New Zealand humor. We took the team down to New Zealand last year for the Tour of the Southland, and now that some of the guys have been down there, I think it makes Flight of the Conchords funnier than they’d first thought.

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