KBS has new sponsors, fresh hopes

Kelly Benefit Strategies heads into 2010 with new confidence — and a couple of new sponsors.

By Brian Holcombe

Kelly Benefit Strategies heads into 2010 with new confidence following its breakout 2009 season, during which the team scored overall wins at the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic, Tour de Beauce, Tour of Thailand and Vuelta Ciclista del Uruguay.

This month the team signed new sponsors Energizer Asia Pacific and Orbea. And it will be retaining nearly its entire squad from 2009 roster, including Thailand winner Andrew Bajadali; Scott Zwizanski, who doubled up at Beauce and Uruguay; veteran sprinter Alex Candelario; Canadian U23 national time trial champion David Veilleux; and Fitchburg winner Zachary Bell.

“Our guys are really loyal to the team. Pretty much everybody wanted to stay on board and nobody was really looking to jump ship,” said director Jonas Carney. “That was the good part — if the guys weren’t happy here, a lot of them would have jumped ship and gone somewhere else because a lot of them had interest from other teams.”

Headlining the arrivals for 2010 are two Team Type 1 riders — two-time U23 national champion Ian MacGregor and seven-time national cyclocross champion Jesse Anthony, who missed much of the 2009 season while battling mononucleosis. Alex Boyd and Guy East also join the roster following successful collegiate and U23 careers, respectively.

New gear

While the faces remain largely the same, some of the equipment will change. KBS will move from Gary Fisher to Orbea bikes in 2010, leaving the Trek Bicycles line behind. Fisher launched its road line under the team in 2009 after Trek severed its relationship with KBS’ previous bike sponsor, LeMond Bicycles, in 2008.

“Orbea is at the forefront of technology and high design in the cycling industry,” said Charles Aaron, KBS managing director. Tony Karklins, managing director at Orbea USA, was equally complimentary, praising Carney for his “leadership and proven results” and Aaron for “professionalism and marketing prowess that is second to none in the domestic racing circuit.”

KBS will ride Orca road frames and Ordu time trial frames equipped with SRAM components. The team will also use Mavic shoes, pedals, wheels and tires. Other new equipment sponsors include Laser Helmets, Tifosi Eyewear, Vision Tech and FSA.

New races

With a bigger budget comes an expanded race schedule. Carney and crew hope to broaden the team’s international calendar with at least two European campaigns after returning to South America and Southeast Asia.

“What we’re building is a stage-race team and we don’t really have that many stage races in America,” Carney said. “I think we ride better when the races are hard — real point-to-point stage races, day after day after day. Races like Tour de Beauce, I think, are what we’ve excelled at because we have so much depth as a team that as the racing progresses, we have so many cards to play.”

Carney hopes that the confidence shown by the team’s sponsors influences race organizers as they hand out invitations in 2010. His team was not invited to the Amgen Tour of California in 2009, but Carney took the exclusion in stride.

“Our plan was to start winning races in May and really start ramping it up. We won the Wilmington Grand Prix and followed that up with Beauce and then Fitchburg and just rolled from there,” he said.

“I was pretty sure that given all the other teams were going to be throwing down super hard getting ready for California in mid-February that we would be the strongest team at the end of the year, and I think that looking at the U.S. pro road race and time trial and U.S. pro crit, we pretty much were.”

Bajadali finished second to Columbia-HTC’s George Hincapie in the road race while Zwizanski took third in the time trial. The team also placed three riders in the top 10 at the criterium championships in Downer’s Grove.

Getting ready

With the Tour of California moving to May in 2010, Carney hopes to integrate North America’s most prestigious stage race into a calendar similar to the one KBS followed in 2009.

The team will hold a training camp in Southern California in February before beginning the season at Redlands in late March. From there, the team plans to race in Europe, Asia and South America before returning to North America for the major goals of the early season —Tour of California, Philadelphia International Classic and Tour de Beauce.

Carney will take his riders to Europe again in the late season to hone their form for the team’s second-half goals — the U.S. professional criterium, road and time trial championships, Tour of Missouri and Univest Grand Prix.