Book the Sacramento hotel rooms for Danny Van Haute and Jelly Belly-Kenda in May — they will be at the start line for the Amgen Tour of California. The team will have its fifth opportunity to improve on Alex Candelario’s two fifth-place stage finishes at California in 2006, their best showing in the United States’ premiere stage race.
“First of all, it’s an honor to be invited to the Amgen Tour of California, and it just goes to show you that the Amgen Tour of California and AEG recognize the team as one of the best,” said Van Haute.
After a 2009 that was thin on results, Jelly Belly is off to a hot start in 2010, placing three riders in the top five at the Redlands Classic. Will Routley won stage 1 at Redlands from a three-rider breakaway with Luis Amaran and Ben Jacques-Maynes.
“As a team, we had some great rides last year,” said Routley. “We had podium results, top ten overalls; we were always up there getting results, but now is time to get the victories. For me personally and for the team, the podium is great, but the podium is not a victory.”
The California podium is a long way off from the team’s results in the race the last two years. They finished only two men — Michael Lange and Nick Reistad — in 2008. Van Haute looks to that result as his most disappointing in the years he has fielded teams in the major American tours.
Jelly Belly’s best results in the 2009 edition were Matt Crane’s Most Courageous Rider jersey for stage 5 and Kiel Reijnen’s 12th in the stage 4 bunch sprint. In fact, the team’s most notable results last season were Phil Gaimon’s stage 2 win at the San Dimas Stage Race and Brad Huff’s overall win at the Tulsa Tough.
The team has bolstered its roster in 2010, however, adding former Garmin strongman Mike Friedman, climber Anthony Colby from Colavita and time trialist Jonathan Chodroff from OUCH-Maxxis. Reijnen and Routley are maturing and both appear capable this year of vying for a stage win in a breakaway, if the right opportunity presents itself.
“We always want to win and again that’s what the mindset is for the team to win a stage, win the most aggressive rider award, top 15 in GC; we are going for it all,” said Van Haute. “Our team saying this year is Respect all, fear none and that is what we are going to do.”
While his sights are set on the elusive California stage win, Van Haute acknowledges Jelly Belly’s spoiler status and hopes his squad will continue to surprise fans well into May.