Some riders who could be considered key to the future of the proposed British pro team have signed two-year contracts with other squads ? presumably ruling them out of linking up with Dave Brailsford?s squad if it gets underway on schedule at the start of the 2010 season.
Bradley Wiggins, one of the stalwarts of British Cycling, has signed for Garmin-Chipotle. British Academy rider Jonny Bellis is set to put pen to paper with Saxo Bank when he makes his stagiaire debut for CSC at the Tour of Britain next week. UCI rules state that teams are obliged to offer two-year contracts to new professionals, partly as a measure to prevent young riders being chewed up and spat out if they fail to make an impact in year one.
There are rumours another Academy starlet, Ben Swift, is interesting the Russian mega-team, Katusha, which has signed Robbie McEwen and Vladimir Karpets already. Again, if anything were to happen, that would be a two-year deal.
A rider with vast experience, Roger Hammond, is out of contract at the end of this season and expected to announce his plans for next year very soon. It?s believed his options include extending with Team Columbia, although there are also strong rumours he?s spoken to the Cervélo TestTeam and has had interest from Bouygues Telecom.
At 34, if he were offered a two-year deal, you?d have to assume he?d take it, although this week he made no secret of the fact he?d love to be involved with a British pro team before his racing career comes to an end.
The jewel in the crown, Mark Cavendish, is under contract with Team Columbia until the end of 2009, but his market value continues to soar. If he were available, every team in the world would be interested.
Putting together a predominantly British pro team in 2010 is not going to be a straightforward task, partly because Brailsford cannot ? and will not ? insist that riders make sure they are available to move. However, he?s not worried.
Brailsford resumed work on his pro team project as soon as the Olympics finished. He has moved swiftly to ensure some key coaching personnel were not poached by pro teams.
And he refuses to see news of riders committing for two years as a vote of no confidence.
?It?s a fact that top riders will sign two-year deals. That is how it works in cycling,? said Brailsford. ?So, at any given time, you will have some riders who are coming to the end of their contract, and some who have a year to go. That?s okay. We can work with that.
?A professional rider?s livelihood goes in two-year cycles and their responsibility to their careers is to make the best move they can. My responsibility, regardless of this pro team project, is first and foremost, to work in the interests of British Cycling and the interests of the riders.
?If a rider came to me and said ?I?ve been offered a two-year deal, what should I do?? I?d say, without a doubt, take it.
?At this moment in time, I have nothing to offer a rider. We are working on a pro team for 2010 and if it?s 100 per cent right it will happen but I cannot promise a rider anything at this moment.
?The same will happen when the team is running. If a rider is offered more money, or a better deal, than we can offer, then they will go to the other team. That?s how it works.
?Our job is to put together a team that riders want to be a part of. If it?s good enough, they will come. If it?s not, then they won?t.
?But it?s not going to be a flash in the pan. Yes, we want to go in at a high level but we know we won?t get everything we want straight away. You have to remember it took more than 10 years to become successful at the Olympics and there were problems and setbacks on the way. When you launch a pro team you accept there will be teething troubles and developmental issues. It?s not as simple as writing down a list of all the riders you want and getting them all, but neither am I losing sleep because riders are signing for two years elsewhere.?
|THE BRITISH PRO TEAM ? WHAT DO WE KNOW?|
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? Brailsford publicly unveiled the pro-nat team concept ? a combination of a traditional pro team and a national squad set-up ? when unveiling the Halfords team sponsorship at the start of the year, but he has long harboured an ambition to set up a pro team
? He is close to securing the consultancy services of a well-known and extremely experienced former team manager to advise and guide the setting up of the squad
? 2010 is the proposed launch date
? The goal is to run a top-class programme from year one ? and that includes the Tour de France
? The plan is the team will be made up predominantly of British riders, but a couple of months ago Brailsford told CW that he wouldn?t rule out the right foreign riders
? Sky, the broadcaster, has signed a partnership-sponsorship deal with British Cycling. The official line is that this deal does not include the funding for the pro team. However, it?s not difficult to speculate that Sky could very well be the sponsor. The broadcaster certainly has the required funding