Team Smart Stop – Mountain Khakis looks back at the 2013 season.
It is a quiet Friday morning and as a management team we are honing in and concentrating on the 2014 season. I began wistfully pondering where the team would be racing this weekend. Knowing full well that the season had officially ended for us, but being a very unseasonable 88 degrees here it was too easy to forget that fact. It still feels like summer and it still feels like we should be competing. There is some racing happening though that I will have to take solace in; Travis and Adam are doing cyclocross, Daniel is still road racing in Europe, and Bobby, Jackie, Clay, and Shane will have one or two big track events. For the most part though they are competing as individuals and the rest of the team and staff have dispersed to parts unknown for the off season.
As we look forward to our 9th season we pause a moment to look back at what we accomplished as a Team and an organization this year. The 2013 season has been a major success for the Team SmartStop presented by Mountain Khakis Cycling Team on numerous fronts.
As an organization, Premier Sports Group built a winning criterium team and remained focused on those goals and initiatives as we raced this year. That success was quantified by victories in some of the most prestigious races in the U.S.. At the 2012 Interbike show we received the messaging and feedback that we should be looking to forge a path and make inroads into the International Stage Race Calendar that had a growing list of televised races. That concept posed some major hurdles for us, but with a little extra impetus from our Canadian rider Ben Chaddock we targeted a lofty goal of getting an invitation to the inaugural Tour of Alberta. So in 2013 we added new and enthusiastic members to our ownership board, we hired full time staff for the first time, we made some key rider acquisitions to help us in our efforts to become a stage race team, and after an extensive search we hired Michael Creed as our new full time director. It was with great pride that we took whatmany considered solely a criterium team and closed out the year doing a major North American televised UCI stage race.
As a team we also felt successful. The Team proudly established a partnership with Luke’s Wings, an organization dedicated to the support of service members who have been wounded in battle, we were second in both the USA CRITS and National Criterium Calendar series. We pulled together as staff, riders, and management and consistently put forth both a professional performance and an appearance. Most significantly though all members of the team proudly wore our colors and did so with respect for themselves, their teammates, and their sponsors. We are very proud of each and every one of the riders we had and together they truly formed our Team.
As riders there was also many individual successes, although any one rider who did have any personal success would be the first to tell you that it could not have been done without their teammates, staff, or the management team. It was truly an environment of “It Takes a Team” and that attitude was shared all year. Shane Kline shined all season long. From his NCC win at the Dana Point Grand Prix of Cycling to his USA CRITS U25 Overall title and his 5th in the NCC series. He almost capped off the year with another NCC win at Boston Mayor’s Cup. 2nd was still a great way for him to end the year. Thomas Brown showed his consistency and contributions all year and was rewarded with the USA CRITS Lap Leader title. As the team began its ramp up to Alberta, new recruit Flavio De Luna really made a statement s to our intentions by winning the KOM jersey at the Cascade Classic. A significant milestone which marked a real point of departure from being “just” a criterium team. Bobby Lea really added another milestone when he took 5th Overall at the Tour of Elk Grove. Elk Grove was a UCI 2.1 ranked event and showed he and the team were ready to compete at the highest level. A season in which we went head to head with the “Blue Train” was highlighted for us with Frank Travieso’s showdown at the Athens Twilight Criterium. There were many results and contributions by individuals all year, but that would not have been possible if each and every rider did not or was not prepared and ready to sacrifice themselves for the team.
So while we will miss the racing for a while, the ability to watch them via LIveStream (Thanks SmartStop!), and the camaraderie of our team we are extremely excited about the prospects of the 2014 season. We have what I will call made the transition to a stage race team and our 2014 goals, roster, and schedule will reflect that. We have a lot of momentum and we are at a launching point for making a distinctive and long-term impact on American cycling.