Fresh off the Tour of Utah, the Jelly Belly Cycling Team rolled into Keystone Resort Monday to spend its off-week training for this year’s USA Pro Challenge, which starts Monday, Aug. 18, in Aspen.
“This week is a recovery week,” team manager and former Olympic cyclist Danny Van Haute said of the training schedule. The team will be in town through Saturday morning working on shorter rides throughout the county and having some down time between the two big U.S. stage races. This is the first year that Keystone has hosted the team, and Van Haute said he hopes the resort can be the team’s pre-race home for years to come.
“It’s a perfect scenario for us,” he said, adding that he could see more teams spending their off-week in Keystone in the future. In previous years the team has trained in Evergreen, but basing operations in Keystone gives the riders a variety of options from a centralized location and added elevation to further acclimate to Colorado riding. It also allows them to stay close to the start in Aspen and other race stages.
On Wednesday the team hosted Colorado’s Prestige Imports junior cycling team for a training ride up Loveland Pass. The event gave a group of young riders, ages 15-23, a chance to ride with the pros and pick their brains for training techniques, riding strategies and all things cycling. The group ride was immediately followed by a question-and-answer session at Luigi’s in Keystone Village and a brief kids clinic for younger riders.
“It was fun for them,” junior team manager Eric Short said after the ride. “It’s an opportunity for our junior squad to access all the knowledge a continental team can provide.”
Event coordinator Rob Quinn added, “Those junior racers just idolize these pros. It was great.”
Quinn said they hope to arrange similar clinics in the future. Earlier this year he organized the Vuelta Keystone gran fondo ride.
Next year he hopes to coordinate the event with the Jelly Belly team. They were unable to attend this year due to a scheduling conflict.
Following Wednesday’s ride, Van Haute said, “We want to come back and maybe make it a little bigger” next year.
The Prestige Imports junior team is only in its first year, but Short said it’s already had a lot of success and he hopes to expand the program in the future. He plans to add a U23 team and is looking to arrange similar clinics with other pro teams.
The Jelly Belly team races primarily in the UCI Continental circuit, but garners a lot of attention at events in part due to its title sponsor, and the team’s recognizable Jelly Belly RV. Up against pro teams that race in the Tour de France, the team doesn’t expect to be in contention for the general classification, Van Haute said, but don’t rule it out for a stage or sprint win. He added that if his riders can stay in the thick of the peloton, a race like the Pro Challenge is tremendous exposure for them and can be a big help with sponsorship.
“This is our Superbowl of cycling,” he told the Daily last month. “We don’t just want to sit on the sidelines.”