California Giant Berry Farm’s/Specialized announced on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 that brothers Yannick and Robin Eckmann, Stephen Leece and Sam Bassetti have signed onto the 2012 road team.
Ranging in age from 17 to 20 years old, the four espoir riders bolster the existing squad for the upcoming season. “We’re excited to bring in four more young up-and-coming riders.” Team Manager and VP of Sales for California Giant, Anthony Gallino commented. “We feel that each one has individual strength which is going to help us in the long run with our stage racing focus and our mission of developing kids into the professional circuit.”
The Eckmann brothers, who reside in Boulder, Colorado, hope to tackle the American stage races. “I’m looking forwards towards the bigger races like Redlands Bicycle Classic, Tour of the Gila, Cascade Classic.” Commented 19-year old Robin Eckmann who finished fourth overall as a cat 2 at the 2009 Tour of the Gila.
Skilled as a time-trialist and breakaway rider, the older Eckmann just finished a one-year stint with the Trek-Livestrong team. He placed second at the 2011 UCI World Amateur Qualifier-Time Trial in Fort Collins, Colorado. He added, “I had a choice between a couple of teams and I think California Giant was the best fit for me because they support the racing and that’s what I love at the end of the day to just race a lot.”
As a member of the Hot Tubes Junior Development Team, 17-year old Yannick Eckmann raced both in Europe and the United States this road season. He claimed the overall at the Green Mountain Stage Race and also represented Germany at the World Cyclocross Championships as a junior. “California Giant has a great program, they race a lot in the United States and provide a lot of support including great equipment.” Yannick Eckmann said. “It’s going to be exciting definitely and I’m looking forward to racing with new teammates.” he added. “We need a lot of racing and California Giant was offering everything that we needed.”
In his second year as a chemistry student at UCSB, 19-year old Stephen Leece is excited to be part of the program. “It means a lot to me because California Giant has a really great reputation as a development team and has produced some great pros. Also, I think it will be a really great fit for me because I’m hoping to take the next step in cycling and try to continue to improve my racing abilities.” Leece commented. Enjoying stage racing and the endurance of racing multiple days, he considers himself an all-rounder. “I can hold my own in a crit and I also really enjoy really long days on a bike, races of attrition where it sometimes the last man standing.”
Leece’s results in 2011 included a win at Patterson Pass Road Race and UCLA Collegiate Men’s road race. “I hope to continue to improve my results at the national level and hopefully win a few races. I also want to contribute to the success of the team overall throughout the season.”
A junior at UC Davis studying exercise biology, 20-year Sam Bassetti is joining the Berries after “a good year” in 2011. “The year before I had mono and I didn’t get to do a lot of racing.” Bassetti explained. “So I worked really hard over the off season and raced well to get decent results. Third at Cherry Pie, fifth at Collegiate Nationals, second at Snelling Road Race. I was on the podium a lot.” He concluded, “It’s a huge opportunity for me to be able to race with some of the strongest guys in the country and to be on a team that has great support like this is really good for me. I jumped around on several different teams the last couple of years so to have a well run team like this is a big deal for me.”