With tight budgets and a crowded U.S. pro calendar that sometimes feels like it was put together with a dart board, a 21st century director sportif like Frankie Andreu has to make hard choices on where and how to allocate team resources. This week, he and the majority of the Kenda-5-hour Energy Pro Cycling team are hunkered down at the San Dimas Stage Race, leaving a hit squad of criterium-ready riders in Tucson, Arizona, for the second Athlete Octane Old Pueblo Grand Prix.
“We’ve got some really fast guys in Tucson,” Andreu said from San Dimas, California. “Issac Howe, Luca Damiani, Jim Stemper, Gregg Brandt, Pat Lemieux, Nick Housely and Max Korus. The guys are strong enough if it breaks up, and if it comes down to a sprint we should be able to do battle with everyone there.”
Andreu and team founder/CEO Chad Thompson put a lot of thought into how they built the criterium capabilities of the perennial USA Crits powerhouse Kenda squad during the offseason.
“One of the main things that we needed was more horsepower for the lead-out,” said Andreu. “We have people like John Murphy for that, and Max Korus. He was the elite national road champ last year and even though this is a step up for him, he should do really well there.”
Because Kenda held their training camp in Tucson last month, the riders set to contest the Old Pueblo Grand Prix remained in the area during the time leading up to the event – making them potentially fresher than some of the competition flying in from different time zones following daylight savings time. In the second round of the USA Crits Championship Series the Kenda crit guns will face riders from Optum and Mountain Khakis, who arrive fresh from their win at last weekend’s Delray Beach Twilight Criterium.
“(Since we weren’t in Delray), we have to take Mountain Khakis into account as far as the overall series goes,” said Andreu. “We can’t have them winning again and gaining that advantage. Optum will be a factor as well, but we should have the speed and strength to compete with them.”
Former U.S. pro criterium champion John Murphy, who will ride San Dimas, will unfortunately not be able to bring added muscle to Kenda’s chances. He is scheduled to fortify the team’s criterium strengths later in the season at races like the Sunny King Criterium and Terrapin Twilight in Athens, Georgia.
“It’s really important for us to bring strong riders to those races and do well there,” said Andreu. “Once some of these earlier stage races are done, we’re going to be able to focus more on National Criterium Calendar and the USA Crits series.”
It’s a point made even more conspicuous following Kenda’s exclusion from the roster of teams invited to this year’s Amgen Tour of California.
“We were all just disappointed,” said Andreu. “Everyone was bummed because it makes it harder for us to secure sponsors, especially when we know that we can do well at that race.”
One way to do the team’s sponsors right is a win in the desert this week.