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BOULDER, Colo. (VN) — Four years after the squad was first introduced to the pro racing community as a new, world-class American team, the Garmin-Cervélo team returned to its roots Thursday night, presenting its 2012 squad to a sold-out crowd at Colorado’s Boulder Theater.
The team, which was presented in November 2007 as Slipstream-Chipotle, has come a long way in those four years, in 2011 winning Paris-Roubaix and four stages of the Tour de France, as well defending Thor Hushovd’s maillot jaune for a week and winning that race’s overall team classification.
General manager Jonathan Vaughters started the squad in Boulder in 2003 as a developmental team sponsored by Denver’s 5280 Magazine. In 2004 the team, run by Slipstream Sports, assumed the title sponsorship of TIAA-CREF, which lasted through 2007 before Vaughters hired several Tour de France veterans and took the leap into Pro Continental status for 2008.
A team time trial victory at the 2008 Giro d’Italia launched that team into the stratosphere, and the squad has since landed a rider in the top-10 of the Tour de France every year — Christian Vande Velde in 2008, Bradley Wiggins in 2009, Ryder Hesjedal in 2010 and Tom Danielson in 2011.
Over the past four years the team has forged an identity not by winning the sport’s biggest events but rather as a stringent anti-doping squad, decked out in Vaughters’ preferred argyle pattern.
The list of returning riders that have been with the team since its first presentation in Boulder four years ago includes Vande Velde, Hesjedal, Danielson, David Millar, David Zabriskie, Tyler Farrar, Martijn Maaskant, Dan Martin and Tom Peterson. Two other riders, Colorado natives Peter Stetina and Alex Howes, have been involved with the team’s developmental program since its inception in 2003.
This week’s camp, which began Sunday, included group rides, social outings, meetings with both sponsors and team directors, and team-building exercises, such as a 10-mile hike Tuesday up to Bear Peak, among Boulder’s iconic Flatirons.
“This has been the best team camp yet,” Hesjedal said. “It’s great to be back in Boulder, where we started the whole thing. It’s become a top-notch organization compared to four years ago, it’s great to see that we’ve come this far.”
The event was emceed by Versus cycling commentator Robbie Ventura, and after a brief introduction and quick words by Slipstream president Matt Johnson and Garmin’s VP of Marketing Jon Cassat, the lights were dimmed for a 15-minute video, titled “Journey To a Dream,” shot and assembled by British filmmaker Nigel Dick earlier during the week.
The film touched upon the squad’s grassroots legacy, bringing up riders like Stetina and Howes through its development program, as well as the all-for-one team aspect of bike racing and Slipstream’s long-running anti-doping policy.
“We came here four years ago, and I showed my first film with the team, ‘Millar’s Tale,’ about David Millar and his return from a doping suspension,” Dick said. “And I remember Jonathan saying ‘We might not win all the biggest races, but we will be the cleanest team in the peloton.’ And I remember thinking, ‘Good luck with that.’ But from my perspective, they’ve done it. And Jonathan seems to have changed the sport. What it took was somebody with courage.”
Vaughters said he didn’t have specific goals for the team in 2012, other than for everyone to be the best they can be, and to “perfect the process.”
“What I’ve learned in cycling is that you have to roll with the punches,” Vaughters said. “I don’t twist riders’ thumbs on specific goals. If everyone does their job, good things will happen.”
After the team was brought onstage a Q&A session followed, highlighted by Zabriskie serenading Vaughters with a modified rendition of “Proud Mary,” with the chorus “Rolling on the Garmin.” Zabriskie also applied his trademark brand of humor to the auction of a seat in the team car during the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge, displaying remarkable auctioneer skill and at one point informing a potential buyer, “Hey, you can’t bid on your own bid.”
Following the auction, former Garmin teammate Will Frischkorn, who now co-owns a Boulder cheese shop called Cured, was the surprise winner of the night’s raffle prize — a 2011 Cervélo S5 race bike.
A team of second chances
Four riders on the 2012 squad were absent from the team presentation — Murilo Fischer, Jack Bauer, Dan Martin and Alex Rasmussen.
Both Bauer and Martin were at their respective homes attending the weddings of close friends.
Rassmussen was home in Denmark, having been cleared Thursday of a doping infraction by a Danish sports doping tribunal. During the 2010 and 2001 seasons Rasmussen missed a total of three out-of-competition drug tests, which brings an automatic suspension, however the UCI failed to notify the rider within the mandatory 14-day period, and the case was dismissed.
Vaughters said Rasmussen would therefore be welcomed as part of the team’s 2012 roster.
“He’s got a contract, we signed it in August,” Vaughters said. “And there’s now no reason we wouldn’t make good on our contract. He’ll be at our next team camp in December. At the end of the day, he’s a real genuine guy, and he screwed up. He’s lucky. On this team, if you miss even two tests, you sit. You’re not racing, that’s our policy. It doesn’t mean you’re fired, as there’s no legal basis to do that, but you sit. He’s going to have to deal with that system. He’s an incredible talent, but I also knew in June, when we started talking to him … he missed his flight to Plouay, he missed his flight to Eneco Tour … next year he’s got to get it together.”
Another rider joining the team on a second chance is Dekker, the former Rabobank star who took overall wins at Tour of Romandie and Tirreno-Adriatico before serving a two-year doping suspension, from July 2009 through June 2011.
In August of this year Dekker returned with Slipstream’s Chipotle Development team, winning the Duo Normand time trial alongside Roubaix champion Vansummeren in mid-September. But, Dekker said, though he’d flown over from Europe earlier in the week, his inclusion as part of the 2012 WorldTour team was in question all the way up until the day of the presentation.
“Everyone on the team, from the riders to the directors to (team owner) Doug Ellis to Jon Cassat from Garmin — everyone had to have a say,” Dekker said. “And I met with (Cassat) earlier this afternoon. Until he agreed, I was not sure if I would be on the team or not. It wasn’t a surprise, I was going for it, but I didn’t know until an hour before the presentation.”
“I’m hungry,” he said. “Two years is a long period to go without racing. But physically, I missed the big tours, the classics, and it’s impossible to train as hard as you would race. Give me some time, and I hope to show that I can still race at the highest level.”
Earlier in the evening, during the open Q&A, an audience member asked how many of the team’s 30 riders hope to make the Tour de France squad. A dozen hands went up, including those of Vande Velde, Danielson, Zabriskie, Farrar and Hesjedal. Another of those hands raised belonged to Dekker.
Time will tell if the Dutchman will be able to earn a spot on that Tour de France team. If he is, just as Millar’s tale of redemption has been integral to the Slipstream organization’s identity, Dekker’s story may just be another triumph in the team’s growing legacy.
Garmin-Cervélo 2012 team roster (30 riders)
Jack Bauer (New Zealand)
Tom Danielson (USA)
Thomas Dekker (The Netherlands)
Tyler Farrar (USA)
Koldo Fernandez (Spain)
Murilo Fischer (Brazil)
Nathan Haas (Australia)
Heinrich Haussler (Australia)
Ryder Hesjedal (Canada)
Alex Howes (USA)
Robbie Hunter (South Africa)
Andreas Klier (Germany)
Michel Kreder (The Netherlands)
Raymond Kreder (The Netherlands)
Christophe Le Mevel (France)
Martijn Maaskant (The Netherlands)
Dan Martin (Ireland)
David Millar (Great Britain)
Ramunas Navardauskas (Lithuania)
Tom Peterson (USA)
Alex Rasmussen (Denmark)
Jakob Rathe (USA)
Sébastian Roessler (Belgium)
Peter Stetina (USA)
Andrew Talansky (USA)
Christian Vande Velde (USA)
Sep Vanmarcke (Belgium)
Johan Vansummeren (Belgium)
Fabian Wegmann (Germany)
David Zabriskie (USA)
Johnny Weltz (Denmark)
Bingen Fernandez (Spain)
Allan Peiper (Australia)
Eric Van Lancker (Belgium)
Geert Van Bondt (Belgium)
Charly Wegelieus (Great Britain)