Chipotle out at Garmin development squad; new sponsor deal close

McRae says new title sponsor deal is close and may shift the way the team takes riders to the top level of the sport

Chipotle is out as the title sponsor next year for Garmin-Sharp’s development team, but director Chann McRae says the team is close to naming a new benefactor, and that bigger things are on the horizon.

The Garmin feeder team — currently named Chipotle-First Solar — is a paragon among development squads, producing the likes of Alex Howes and Peter Stetina (both of whom ride for Garmin-Sharp now) and UnitedHealthcare staigiaire Danny Summerhill, and was key in the comeback of confessed doper Thomas Dekker from his EPO ban. McRae said that long-time backer Chipotle is out as the title sponsor headed into the 2013 season, but that the team would know much more about its fate next week. McRae said he is “almost certain” there would be a team next season.

“We still want to be involved in grassroots cycling and have a development team for Garmin,” McRae told VeloNews Thursday. “There’s a lot of things in the works right now… If this goes, it’s going to be huge.”

McRae said he couldn’t yet disclose what those elements were, but that there would be a fundamental shift in the team’s approach to preparing riders for the professional ranks.

It has been a fantastic year for developmental riders across the U.S. The Bontrager-Livestrong U23 squad raced well at the Amgen Tour of California and USA Pro Challenge, with Joe Dombrowski placing in the top 10 in both races, and landed a podium at the Liège–Bastogne–Liège espoirs with Ian Boswell. BMC Racing is also launching a U23 squad soon, increasing the competition further among America’s top espoirs.

“We’re targeting a lot of the same riders. It just raises the level,” McRae said. “You don’t want there to be only one big U23 development team. Then the talent is all saturated.”

The team (and McCrae) has been highly successful, putting riders on UCI ProTeams teams and bagging 11 national titles. “It seems like every year we peaked for the national championships and put it all on the line there,” he said.

What’s more, his riders don’t sign for professional teams and sit. “They’re coming into the WorldTour prepared,” McRae said. “They’re in the breakaways, they’re off the front they’re in the top five.”

McRae gave credit to Chipotle, a company with extended involvement with the Slipstream Sports firm behind the Colorado-based top-tier and development teams.

“I think that Chipotle gave a lot to the sport, and they made a big difference in the sport,” he said. “You’re seeing it now, in guys like Stetina and Howes, guys who are going to be riding the Tour de France one day.”