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Tour of California Preview: Team Bissell

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Ben Jacques-Maynes may be Bissells best shot at a stage win in 2010.
Ben Jacques-Maynes may be Bissell's best shot at a stage win in 2010.

May is upon us, and the Tour of California is just a couple weeks away. The countdown has begun, and to help pass the time, BikeRumor will be profiling a different team competing in the Tour of California every day until the tour. We will give a brief overview of the team, who to watch for, and any big names you can expect to see at this year’s tour. So, without any further delay, we will start with Team Bissell after the break.

Bissell Pro Cycling returns to the Tour of California this year with a roster full of young talent, led by veterans Ben Jacques-Maynes and Frank Pipp. Jacques-Maynes, a California native, has raced in every edition of the event, but has yet to nab a stage win.

This year will bring extra incentive for the 31-year-old Jacques-Maynes, as stage three finishes in his hometown of Santa Cruz, where Jacques-Maynes’ tried a daring six man breakaway last year that was caught on the final climb after battling brutal winds and rain all day. It was, needless to say, an emotional day for Jacques-Maynes, who was eventually awarded the most courageous jersey for that stage, although falling short of the stage win he so desperately wanted.

In order to win a stage, Jacques-Maynes will probably have to get into a breakaway with a few other riders that have the ability and desire to make a break work. Ben is a strong but not extraordinary sprinter, so his win will most likely come from power and consistency throughout the day. If stage three comes down to a field sprint, Jacques-Maynes’ chances at a stage win will essentially be gone as the big teams will send their strong sprinters to the front, something Bissell just can’t compete with.

No matter how the stage plays out, we can be sure that Jacques-Maynes will be back with something to prove this year, and a strong team of young riders to support him. Ben Jacques-Maynes’ twin brother, Andy, also races for the Bissell team and has always been a strong support rider for Ben as well as a strong individual contender, but with such a strong field, Andy will most likely stay in the support role. Bissell has not officially released its Tour of California roster,  but watch for the recently signed sprinters Kyle Wamsley and Daniel Holloway to get some experience on sprinting stages, as Bissell focuses on farming young talent on the team.

Bissell loses one of its strongest riders from last season, Tom Zirbel, who accepted a two year ban from the sport after testing positive for DHEA last year. Zirbel was far and away Bissell’s strongest rider last year, placing seventh in the time trial behind names like Hincapie, Voigt, Zabriskie, and of course, Leipheimer. Zirbel had already signed with another team when his suspension was handed down, but it still represents a major loss for the team.

While Bissell probably doesn’t have any real GC hopes on this year’s team, a stage three win is certainly possible for Jacques-Maynes. With strong form coming into the race and a hometown win on the line, don’t be surprised to see the red and white jerseys of Bissell off the front as the field rolls into Santa Cruz. We can count on Pipp to mix things up, but if Bissell is going to get a stage win, it will most likely come on the wheels of Andy Jacques-Maynes .

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