Plowman Craven-Madison?s riders will rub shoulders with of the best in the world at the five-day Tour of Majorca next month.
The British team has secured an invitation to the five-day race on the Balearic island (February 8-12), and will compete against nine ProTour teams.
Among the field for the race will be the current Olympic road race champion, Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel), the world time trial champion Bert Grabsch (Columbia-High Road) and a former Tour de France winner, Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d?Epargne).
Alejandro Valverde, Stijn Devolder, Robbie McEwen, Gert Steegmans, Daniele Bennati and Sylvain Chavanel will also take part.
For Plowman Craven?s 11 riders it will be a huge baptism of fire, but Eddie White, one of the team?s directors, said everyone was upbeat.
?They can?t believe they?re riding against these guys,? he said. ?When I was racing, I?d have given my eye teeth for this kind of opportunity.
?We know it?s going to be tough, but we?re going to try to be as competitive as we can against some of the best in the world.
?If we can get in some breaks, or make the front group, that?s probably as much as we can hope for, realistically.
?It?s a hell of a step up for most of the riders, but we may cause a few surprises.?
White?s fellow team director, Cherie Pridham, explained how the invitation came about.
?We put an entry in, saying that we were planning a training camp in Majorca and that it would be great to do some racing too,? she said. ?We followed it up and they gave us a place.
?It?s going to be a huge experience for all the riders, but particularly the younger ones.
?We?ve got no illusion of grandeur. We?ll just go there and do our very best and keep our feet on the ground.?
The Tour of Majorca is actually five one-day races with a general classification for those who complete all five.
However, riders who fail to finish one stage are eligible to start the next. Each day the team must enter 10 riders and the rules state each rider should start at least three stages.
The team?s owner, Simon Barnes, said: ?We were perhaps as amazed as anyone that we got an invite. There are nine ProTour teams in it, but Eddie approached some contacts in Spain and we got in. All we have to do now is deliver.
?We know it?s going to be a tough race. There are only a couple of flattish days, but we?ve got some decent climbers. We?ve got a bit more strength in depth than perhaps people think. From my point of view as a sponsor from outside the cycle trade, this is fantastic exposure.?
TOUR OF MAJORCA 2009
Sunday, February 8: Trofeo Mallorca
Monday, February 9: Trofeo Cala Millor-Cala Bona
Tuesday, February 10: Trofeo Pollença-Alcudia
Wednesday, February 11: Trofeo Inca
Thursday, February 12: Trofeo Calvia
PLOWMAN CRAVEN-MADISON FOR THE TOUR OF MAJORCA
TOUR OF MAJORCA TEAMS AND THEIR MAJOR RIDERS
Katusha ? Vladimir Karpets, Robbie McEwen, Gert Steegmans
Caisse d?Epargne ? Alejandro Valverde, Oscar Pereiro, Joaquin Rodriguez, Jose Joaquin Rojas
Euskaltel-Euskadi ? Samuel Sanchez, Mikel Astarloza
Cofidis ? Samuel Dumoulin, Leonardo Duque
Quick Step ? Sylvain Chavanel, Stijn Devolder
Milram ? Linus Gerdemann, Gerald Ciolek
Liquigas ? Daniele Bennati, Roman Kreuziger
Rabobank ? Graeme Brown, Juan Manuel Garate
Columbia-High Road ? Edvald Boasson Hagen, Marcus Burghardt, Bert Grabsch, Andre Greipel, Maxime Montfort
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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.
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