Rob Hayles is going to lead the expanded Halfords Bikehut team in 2009, and he could be supported by as many as seven other riders.

However, Pinarello?s Russell Downing will not be the joint leader of the squad, despite a tentative approach to Phil Griffiths to see if he would be available.

Team pursuit star Ed Clancy is set to sign for the Halfords squad, which will have a domestic race programme and will make the Tour of Britain its main target for the season.

The squad, which will be managed by former professional Keith Lambert, and not Shane Sutton as initially thought, is also set to recruit Andy Tennant and Mark McNally, who are leaving British Cycling?s Academy in Italy.

Tom Southam, who rode with Hayles in the two-man Halfords Bikehut team this year, has been made an offer to stay, but he also has an offer from Rapha-Condor.

The men’s team could number between six and eight as Halfords looks to capitalise on the sponsorship of the women?s team this season.

The new Halfords deal could also include backing for two mountain bikers, Ian Bibby and 2007 world junior cross-country bronze medallist David Fletcher.

And Sharon Laws, who raced on the road for Halfords this season, may switch to mountain biking for 2009 to capitalise on her endurance mtb background.