Plowman Craven-Madison?s riders will face some of the biggest names in the peloton at the Tour of Mallorca, starting on Sunday.
The British team has been invited to compete in the prestigious five-day stage-race on the Balearic island and will come up against nine ProTour teams.
?They can?t believe they?re riding against these guys,? explained team director, Eddie White.
?It?s a hell of a step up for most of the riders, but we may cause a few surprises?.
Divided into five ?stages?, the race is actually a collection of ?trophy races,? which riders can opt in and out of, although only the riders who complete each of the five stages will be awarded a time on the overall classification.
“We know it’s going to be tough, but we’re going to try to be as competitive as we can against some of the best in the world,” said White.
“If we can get in some breaks, or make the front group, that’s probably as much as we can hope for, realistically.”
Above: one of the favourites, Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d?Epargne), who traditionally rides well at the start of the season
Last year?s winner Philippe Gilbert will not be present, but the likes of Alejandro Valverde (above), Robbie McEwen (Katusha), Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d?Epargne), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) will all line-up in what is one of the traditional season-openers in Europe.
Above: Graeme Brown (Rabobank), stage-winner last year
The first stage may well suit the Plowman Craven Madison squad, being as it is almost pan-flat and at 116km, a distance that the riders are well-accustomed to in domestic racing.
With a squad of 11 riders, it will give the team the opportunity to rest some weary legs and they may well need it. The first stage may be flat, but the remaining stages each feature at least two classified climbs, with the fourth stage boasting five second category ascents.
Above: Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez will test his early-season form
The team’s owner, Simon Barnes, said: “We were perhaps as amazed as anyone that we got an invite. There are nine ProTour teams in it, but Eddie approached some contacts in Spain and we got in. All we have to do now is deliver.
“We know it’s going to be a tough race. There are only a couple of flattish days, but we’ve got some decent climbers. We’ve got a bit more strength in depth than perhaps people think. From my point of view as a sponsor from outside the cycle trade, this is fantastic exposure.”
Stay tuned at www.cyclingweekly.com to see how the Plowman Craven Madison riders get on next week.
Plowman Craven start-list for Tour of Mallorca: Tony Gibb, Tom Murray, Jeroen Janssen, Jonathan Mozley, James Millard, Ross Creber, Stephen Adams, Jon Tiernan-Locke, Evan Oliphant, Tom Barras, Simon Holt
Stages of the 2009 Tour of Mallorca:
Stage one: February 8: Palma – Palma (116km)
Stage two: February 9: Cala Millor – Calla Millor (176.5km)
Stage three: February 10: Inca – Inca (182.6km)
Stage four: February 11: Bunyola – Bunyola (143.3km)
Stage five: February 12: Magaluf – Palmanova (147.6km)
Plowman Craven ? Madison
Euskaltel ? Euskadi
Columbia High Road
Andalucia Caja Sur
Team Nutrixxion Sparkasse
Contentpolis ? Ampo
Official race website: www.vueltamallorca.com