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Bissell smaller, swifter for 2010

The Bissell Pro Cycling Team is smaller but swifter for 2010, hoping to contend in crits as well as time trials and stage races.

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The Bissell Pro Cycling Team is smaller but swifter for 2010 with an eye toward becoming a contender in the National Racing Calendar’s criteriums as well as in time trials and stage races.

The team kicked off its third season with Michigan-based Bissell as title sponsor with a five-day team camp in Santa Rosa, California. Most of the team’s riders live in California, including director Glen Mitchell, and Santa Rosa’s diverse terrain and moderate weather makes it the ideal location for one of America’s top teams to get the season rolling.

Bissell tries out one of the Tour of California climbs, out of the Napa Valley.

In 2009, former Bissell team member Tom Zirbel stole the show, winning nearly every time trial that he entered, claiming the overall NRC title and landing a ride with Garmin-Transitions at the end of the season. It was a dream year that became a nightmare when Zirbel tested positive for DHEA after the U.S. road national championships.

With Zirbel out of the picture, Bissell was left with a void to fill. Mitchell signed a handful of sprint specialists to bring balance to a squad that traditionally does well in the time trials and the general classification. Meanwhile, riders who once worked to support Zirbel may find podium opportunities in his absence.

The 2010 team includes 13 riders, three fewer than last year, and Mitchell concedes there’s been “a little bit of change.”

“We still kept our core group of guys from last year. It’s good to have that platform,” he said. “If there was one area that we’ve been known not to be dominant it was in criterium racing. That makes up a good section of our season, so we needed to address that. Bringing on the likes of Daniel Holloway and Kyle Wamsley, that brings two big engines for the finish.

“We have the experience of Frank Pipp; he’s a good road captain. We have the horsepower of Peter Latham and Andy Jacques-Maynes, and we have Cody O’Reilly, who’s a two-time national track champion and he’s still learning and developing, which is exciting.”

Wamsley came to Bissell from Colavita-Sutter Home, and Mitchell hopes to give him a chance to show his stuff.

“Look at his résumé — he is a proven finisher. He has top five after top five, and that was on a team where he wasn’t the go-to sprinter. Even after his lead-outs he was picking up top fives. For him to get the green light and for us to say to him, ‘You’re not a lead-out rider any more — we have guys that can get you to the finish,’ that’s exciting for him and exciting for us.”

Another rider bringing speed to Bissell in 2010 is Holloway from the Felt-Holowesko Partners development team. Some of his best successes on the road have been abroad at races such as the Vuelta Palencia in Spain and the Tour de Namur in Belgium, where he has racked up stage wins.

Ben Jacques-Maynes is Bissell's go-to guy for the GC.

For the NRC individual standings and stage races, Ben Jacques-Maynes is the obvious go-to guy. In 2007 Jacques-Maynes finished second in the individual NRC standings and was third in 2008.

“He is obviously our team leader on that front,” said Mitchell. “He has the full package — he can time trial, he can look out for himself in the sprints and he’s handy on the climbs.”

Too, there’s a lot of talent that went untapped in 2009 while supporting Zirbel. The three big question marks are Paul Mach, winner of the last edition of the Mt. Hood Stage Race; Peter Latham, the New Zealand criterium national champion and bronze medalist at the 2005 U23 time trial worlds; and Jeremy Vennell, New Zealand time trial national champion and five-year veteran of professional European racing.

Latham rode with Ag2r’s feeder team before joining Bissell last season. Riding unfamiliar races with new faces, Latham didn’t have the regional experience to excel at American racing in ’09, but after a year of testing the waters he may be able to let his talents flourish in 2010.

“With Tom, who was the best time trialist in America, it was nice to have him in the yellow,” said Latham of his first year with Bissell in 2009. “Now there is Jeremy, Ben and myself who will hope to step up. Anyone on the team will ride for anyone else — that’s just the way it is. I came over to the States last year and I really enjoyed it. You can’t beat having English-speaking teammates and Bissell is a fun team to be with.”

With Zirbel out of the picture, this year will be a lot different, says Vennel, who is in his third year with the team.

“It will make a big difference. I sacrificed a lot of races last year for him. I’ll be interested to see how I go without having to ride the front or help control the race,” he said. “Hopefully we still get the leader’s jersey now and then but we won’t need to control the race as much now. I think overall we will do better on the NRC. Colavita just won a lot of sprints and that’s how they won the overall.”

With its GC options intact and some fast finishers, expect Bissell to be mixing it up more in 2010.

“I think overall we have a slightly more aggressive team than what we’ve had before, so look for us to be pushing the pace instead of waiting for the time trial,” said Mitchell. “UnitedHealthcare definitely has a nicely stacked roster, but you can only send eight riders to each race. So it comes down to our eight riders against their eight riders. We both have fast guys. If everyone thinks that they are the ones to beat, then it’s up to them to prove they are the ones to beat.

“We’ll be looking for the opportunity. We won’t be doing the race that they want to do — we’ll be racing the race that we want to race.”

Click here for a Casey B. Gibson gallery.

Bissell Pro Cycling Team for 2010

Ian Boswell (new)

Rob Britton (new)

Daniel Holloway (new)

Andy Jacques-Maynes

Ben Jacques-Maynes

Shane Kline (new)

Peter Latham

Paul Mach

Cody O’Reilly

Frank Pipp

Jeremy Vennell

Kyle Wamsley (new)

David Williams (new)