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By Phillip Heckler
A top U.S. team with a new name and some new riders opened its season at Argentina’s Tour de San Luis last week. While the start was a bit rocky, Jamis-Sutter Home brought back a few results and some improved form.
Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Diomo) became the first non-Argentine winner in the race’s four-year history when it wrapped up Sunday. Rounding out the podium was Colombian Jose Serpa (Androni-Giocattoli) at 28 seconds back and Spaniard Rafael Valls (Footon-Servetto) in third, at 1:19 behind the Nibali.
One-time Tour de France leader Michael Rasmussen, riding for Miche, made a comeback at San Luis, finishing eighth overall.
Argentina is almost a second home for Jamis-Sutter Home (formerly Colavita-Sutter Home), which is directed by multi-time Argentinian national champion Sebastian Alexandre. The team’s top sprinter in 2009 – Argentine Lucas Sebastian Haedo, left to join his brother JJ at Saxo Bank for 2010, but Jamis has signed another pair of sprinter brothers from Argentina: Alejandro and Anibal Borrajo. At San Luis, the Borrajos were joined by Ivan Dominguez, Tyler Wren, Andrew Guptill and Nicholas Frey.
“The season didn’t start the way we wanted,” said Alexandre. A couple of days before the race, while training in Argentina, Alejandro Barrajo was hit by a car, which sidelined the sprinter with a concussion.
Then, during the third stage — a199.7km sprint stage from Fraga to Buena Esperanza — the team lost Dominguez to a crash during a fast finish that had the peleton chasing a three-man break containing Andrew Guptill.
Alexandre said that the team initially thought that Dominguez had broken his wrist. Doctors later determined that he had broken nothing, and Dominguez should be back on the bike within the next few days.
Alexandre said that it was obvious that Nibali came to Argentina to win.
“It’s not like I’m surprised,” Alexandre said, “but the race is getting bigger and bigger. There was a group of 20 guys that came to win the race.”
Despite the misfortune of Alejandro Barrajo and Dominguez, the team had a three great finishes from Anibal Barrajo, who finished sixth on the first and third stages and 11th on the seventh stage. Wren was the team’s top GC finisher at 31st.
Alexandre said that the team was happy with the way the race and the team training camp, also held in Argentina the week prior to the race, turned out. “Half the team are new members, so it was a learning experience for the new riders,” Alexandre said.
The next stop for Jamis-Sutter Home is the Rutas de America in Uruguay starting on February 16. After that the team will bring their show back to North American soil for the San Dimas Stage Race and the Redlands Bicycle Classic in California.