I actually feel a little bad about this. I’m sure the young men of the Bontrager Livestrong team are the future of cycling and they have a strong NorCal connection with Charlie Avis and Ian Boswell. Hopefully the team and their fans can chalk this up to any publicity is good publicity.
After several US domestic teams were left of the Amgen TOC roster, likely due to budget constraints around the races “activation fee”, there were several complaints, including me, about Bontrager-Livestrongs inclusion in the race. I my opinion it had nothing to do with the quality of the riders. Personally, i think they are the future of the sport. They will be the key American Euro pros in a few years – it’s just every time i’ve seen a national team with young American hopefuls take to the roads in a pro-tour race they get demolished. It’s hard enough for teams like Kenda/5Hour Energy and Optum to make an impact with experienced grizzled 30 year old veterans. Letting a bunch of kids, that should be in college, loose on a ProTour race is a waste of a spot. It probably wouldn’t normally make my radar but they seem especially unprepared after their disastrous training ride with Lance Armstrong that injured several riders in late February.
My comments about Bontrager-Livestrong got a lot of strong, and in my opinion surprising, feedback from the teams fan’s. Many of the comments were from folks that had ridden with these boys on previous national and amateur teams and know what they are capable of. To see what i mean check out the comments section of the TOC Selections post.
“Livestrong has some really good rider … Plus look at their track record of beating the pros at big events – like Ben King winning US Pro Nationals (he was on livestrong at the time). You don’t know until you know.”
“Show these Pro’s how good you are! It will be great to see the Trek Livestrong kids kick some tail as they usually do.”
“I think Livestrong is going to do more than people think. They’ve been winning stages at Gila, Cascade etc for a few years now.”
“I’m predicting a Livestrong stage win on a mountain top.”
After watching riders in no-frills programs like Cal-Giants Evan Huffman excel against domestic pro’s it’s not beyond reason that the Bontrager-Livestrong team could compete against the big boys. I’m open to being wrong, and I started to doubt my original postion that Bontrager-Livestrong was a wasted spot. I started to revisit my position that they were in the TOC purely on Livestrong money. I don’t begrudge them a good budget. Getting in on your great connections and purse strings is not necessarily a bad thing, just frustrating when your a Kenda/5 Hour Energy fan.
Then San Dimas happened. Three Bontrager Livestrong riders lined up, and no Bontrager-Livestrong riders finished. It would appear that they all abandoned during the cold wet circuit race. Their TT times were respectable. Not awesome but respectable… all of them were clustered in the tail end of the top 30. But man, did they blow up in the road race. There were a lot of DNF’s in that road race but to have your entire team wiped out in a small three day domestic stage race two months before the biggest race in the US is not a good sign. It’s San Dimas, home of Bill and Ted, not some crazy euro death march. If the race conditions at San Dimas were tough what are they going to do if and when it rains at the Tour of California. The last few years have always had 1-2 bad days.
In theory there is enough time to get tuned up to race the TOC, and Redlands, where Bontrager-Livestrong will be at full power, should be an excellent acid test. The boys are gonna have to find the eye of the tiger (they should read AJM’s interview) if they are gonna live up to their fan’s expectations and prove me wrong. I’ll be watching the prologue today with great interest.
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