As entrances go, it turned a few heads and caused a stir. Evan Oliphant, top half Plowman Craven-Madison?s distinctive pink and blue team jersey, bottom half kilt, led the squad into the team launch while playing the bagpipes.

Last year?s Plowman Craven and Pearl Izumi teams have joined forces, with Madison, the distributors of Shimano equipment among other things, as one of the title sponsors.

The launch was held at Madison?s Ice Bike expo in Milton Keynes on Tuesday, although the riders have already begun their season, having taken rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest teams in the world at the Tour of Majorca at the start of the month.

During the race?s third stage Tony Gibb was part of a three-man break that gained a 10-minute lead over the bunch before the first climb of the well-known Soller climb. It ensured the team made a big impression in the race and it earned them an immediate invite to Cinturon Ciclista Mallorca in early April, which is run by the same organisation.

In the meantime, the focus will be on a good start to the domestic season. Last year, the Plowman Craven team failed to win a round of the Premier Calendar, although Oliphant was third overall thanks largely to a stage win and second overall at the Bikeline Two-Day.

This season Oliphant wants to wrest the overall title from Candi TV-Pinarello?s Russell Downing. ?Because of the way the points are awarded, if you do well in the two early stage races, the Bikeline and the Girvan, you can really do yourself a lot of good,? he said. ?But the priority is to win a round and that will put you right in the hunt overall.?

Scotland?s Oliphant has played the bagpipes since childhood, accompanying his sister?s Highland dances, but hasn?t played regularly for a while and admitted he?d neglected his bagpipes a little. To the untrained ear, though, it was stirring stuff and certainly made for a striking entrance.

The criterium races will be a big focus too, but team manager Cherie Pridham was keen to emphasise that they are not just a ?crit team?.

?We?ve got some good criterium riders, but we want to do well in the Premiers. We have got some good riders for the tough races. Everyone knows about Evan, of course, but also Jon Tiernan-Locke and young Ross Creber, the former mountain biker.?

imageThe 2009 Plowman Craven-Madison.co.uk squad line up at the team launch

imageA vision in pink and blue: Plowman Craven-Madison.co.uk training in Majorca recently.

Picture by Eddie White

One of the riders who could star in the circuit races is Gibb, who postponed his planned retirement when he heard about the merger of Plowman Craven and Pearl Izumi.

Eddie White said Pridham set the goal of running a pro team within four years when the pair got involved with Pearl Izumi. Pridham was asked what it was like to ?It?s a privilege to be in charge of ten lads in Lycra,? she joked.

The merger between the two teams, plus the addition of Tom Murray and Jonathan Tiernan-Locke gives the squad a fresh new look for 2009, which is matched by the slightly darker and, it has to be said, much classier hue to the team?s familiar pink and blue jerseys.

But the fact remains, last season was a bit thin in terms of big victories and that is something White will want to rectify quickly.

Simon Barnes, managing director of Plowman Craven, the measuring expert which continues to back the team, said: ?I don?t like to use the word sponsor, because it makes it sound like this is some kind of benevolent thing we?re doing. It is actually a very important marketing tool for our business.?

The team?s next objective is the Eddie Soens on March 7, before the Premier Calendar kicks off with the Bikeline Two-Day.

PLOWMAN CRAVEN-MADISON.CO.UK 2009

Tom Barras

Tony Gibb

Evan Oliphant

Tom Murray

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke

Jeroen Janssen

Marc Perry

Jon Mozley

Stephen Adams

James Millard

Ross Creber

imageRELATED LINKS

Plowman Craven and Pearl Izumi join forces