Saint Piran are not a WorldTour team, the level Gabriel Cullaigh has dropped down from and where he believes he still belongs, but in signing for the British Continental team, the 25-year-old will have the opportunity that he seldom had during two frustrating years at Movistar: he will be able to bike races.
"After the last two years of only racing 48 days, I want to take advantage and race as much as I can. Saint Piran will be the best opportunity for me," Cullaigh told Cycling Weekly.
The Yorkshireman endured a difficult past season with Movistar as explained to this publication last week, an article which prompted support across cycling to Cullaigh including from Allan Piper who expressed regret that he couldn't do anything to help the Classics rider. Cullaigh previously had an offer to join UAE-Team Emirates on a one-year deal before signing for Movistar.
But that is in the past, and after the frustrations of recent months, Cullaigh now just wants to look forward.
"I wanted to stay at WorldTour or ProTeam level, but the only team who had contacted my agent Andrew [McQuaid] was Qhubeka and we’re still not sure if they’re going ahead or not," Cullaigh said.
"I’ve had my doubts, held on with hope, but didn’t want to keep waiting and waiting and then not have anything.
"[Saint Piran manager] Steve Lampier and I spoke at the Tour of Britain and we’ve kept in touch since. I’ve always got on well with Lamps. He said he didn’t want me on the team because that would mean I didn’t get a WorldTour ride, but if it came to it he’d happily have me and he’d give me what I needed in terms of a wage.
"After a few weeks he said they had the funds that I asked for if I need to come back. Steve was patient with me and I decided to go for it.
"It’s an exciting project and Steve wants to make them a success, be a well-renowned British Conti team that everyone knows and respects, a bit like JLT was. That’s his goal and he has his ideas on how he wants to race and how he wants everyone to have a hands on approach. I liked the sound of it."
The position Cullaigh finds himself in was one similarly experienced by fellow Briton James Shaw who had to drop down to the third-tier with SwiftCarbon in 2019 after two years at Lotto-Soudal.
Shaw has worked tirelessly hard in the intervening three years and his results this year for Ribble-Weldtite - most notably two fifth-placed finishes on GC at the Tour of Slovenia and Tour of Norway against WorldTour opposition - led to him signing a two-year contract with EF Education - Nippo.
Cullaigh can draw inspiration for his peer. He said: "James and I are the same age. We were on the [British Cycling] talent team together, we went through juniors and U23s almost like rivals, but we kept in touch.
"He sent me a nice message recently saying that it sounds like I am in a similar position to what Lotto did to him a few years back.
"He really thought about sacking it all in, but he said he knows that would have been the worst decision he could have made. It’s been super impressive what he did this year and it’s great to see it’s possible to jump back up if I can find a place in the right team."
While Saint-Piran's principal focus will be on the domestic calendar, they also hope to race abroad a number of times each month. Last year, Tom Mazzone won the Grand Prix de la Somme Conseil Départemental 80, increasing the team's chances of race invites.
After a year of disappointment, Cullaigh is determined that the 2022 season will just be a one-year hiatus away from the sport's echelons. "I'll give it a year - I owe it to myself. I'll have a good bit of racing and there will be opportunities. I will get my head down and take the moments when they come
"Working with Gary [Sadler, his coach], I can make it work. The main thing is focusing and enjoying my racing and competing. Hopefully the results will come, and with that I can continue this lifestyle and jump back up."
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