HAYLES STAYS WITH HALFORDS, RUSSELL DOWNING ALSO A TARGET

Team Halfords Bikehut

Rob Hayles looks set to stay with the Halfords team, which British Cycling is planning to expand for 2009.

The national road race champion had been made an offer by Rapha-Condor, but their manager John Herety admitted to CW: ?I am frustrated but resigned to the fact we won?t get him, so I?m now exploring other potential options.?

Meanwhile, Russell Downing is the latest rider to be strongly linked with the team ? which is set to be an expansion of the current Halfords Bikehut set-up and will probably be managed by British Cycling coach Shane Sutton.

The women?s Halfords Bikehut team will not continue in 2009, Cycling Weekly understands. Nicole Cooke is set to join another top team and the other women in the squad will race on as Great Britain and will be largely unaffected.

However, it is thought that Halfords is considering a British Cycling proposal to run a bigger men?s team in 2009. This season Hayles and Tom Southam were the only men to wear the team?s orange and black.

Downing won a record seven rounds of the Premier Calendar series for the Pinarello team this season and ended a fine season by being Great Britain?s only finisher in the elite road race at the World Championship in Italy.

Pinarello?s manager Phil Griffiths said: ?I am a little surprised and bemused but if Russell wanted to move on and felt it was the right move for him I would not stand in his way.

?However, I cannot see Russell wanting to put the brakes on for Rob Hayles one week, and I can?t see Rob wanting to put the brakes on for Russell the next. I don?t see why a British team would want so many riders who are all potential team leaders in their own right.?

Downing is on holiday for two weeks but will make a decision when he returns, Griffiths said. ?We are obviously dependent on what Russell does. We will always be around, we will always support grass roots racing, but to run a team of the level we have run this year, we would need a guy of Russell?s status.?

There are other names rumoured to be linked with the team ? whether it ends up being sponsored by Halfords or not ? and some appear more feasible than others.

Ed Clancy is a probable. The team pursuit world record holder raced on the road with Landbouwkrediet this season and had also been a target for Rapha-Condor. Andy Tennant from the British Cycling Academy in Italy has also been mentioned as a possible rider for Sutton?s team, as has Ian Stannard, although the latter seems unlikely.

RELATED LINKS

Ed Clancy considering his options for 2009

Wednesday's British news round-up

Tour of Britain: 2009 dates announced

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Sports journalist Lionel Birnie has written professionally for Sunday Times, Procycling and of course Cycling Weekly. He is also an author, publisher, and co-founder of The Cycling Podcast. His first experience covering the Tour de France came in 1999, and he has presented The Cycling Podcast with Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe since 2013. He founded Peloton Publishing in 2010 and has ghostwritten and published the autobiography of Sean Kelly, as well as a number of other sports icons.