By Gregor Brown
Australia will have its first top-division team, GreenEdge to go with its first Tour de France winner. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) licence commission announced late this afternoon that GreenEdge and RadioShack will complete a list of 18 WorldTour teams for next season.
"On the basis of the documents submitted," read a UCI press release, "the commission approved the registration of the RadioShack-Nissan and granted a WorldTour licence to the GreenEdge Cycling Team."
RadioShack-Nissan is the continuation of Luxembourg's Leopard-Trek team, which made its debut this year with home stars Fränk and Andy Schleck. On September 5, Leopard announced that it would partly merge with USA's team RadioShack, taking on many its riders and its main sponsor. The commission originally issued Leopard a licence through 2014 and today, announced it approved its registration for next season.
The commission gave GreenEdge a two-year licence, for 2012 and 2013. (A full list of the 18 teams and their licence durations are below.)
GreenEdge's licence marks a steady progression for cycling Australia, from Phil Anderson's yellow jersey in the 1980s to Cadel Evans' Tour de France victory this summer. After helping create a successful track programme, Shayne Bannan left his post as Cycling Australia's national performance director on December 30 to start GreenEdge. Over the last year, he created a team ready to fight at the top level, in the WorldTour: 30 riders in total, 17 Australians.
Milan-San Remo winner Matt Goss and Australian stars, Stuart O'Grady and Robbie McEwen will help lead the team.
"We saw about 20 years ago, given its growth rate [in Australia], that we'd arrive at having a world-class team," Bannan told Cycling Weekly earlier this year. "We didn't know when, but we were preparing for that time."
The official time of their debut is January 17, when the WorldTour and cycling season starts with Australia's top race, the Tour Down Under. They are meeting in Australia now for a training camp ahead of the season.
Evans, as team BMC Racing's leader, will face them throughout the year.
"I wish GreenEdge all the best," Evans said. "As long as they come second to [BMC team-mates] Thor Hushovd or George Hincapie in Paris-Roubaix, that's okay!"
The commission will release a list of second division, Professional Continental teams next week, on December 12.
Confirmed ProTeam licences (and licence duration)
BMC Racing (2011-2014)
Rabobank (to 2012)
AG2R La Mondiale (2010-2012)
Renewed this year
Katusha Team (2012-2015)
Lotto Belisol Team (2012-2015)
Omega Pharma-Quick-Step 2012-2014)
Team Saxo Bank (2012)
RadioShack and GreenEdge still waiting for ProTeam licences
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