One Pro Cycling team owner Matt Prior is targeting entry to a Grand Tour in 2017, but insists the priority for next season is on winning races and developing young riders for the future.
If their application to the second-tier UCI Pro Continental Tour for the 2016 season is successful, One will be eligible for invites to WorldTour races, such as the Tour de France and Paris-Roubaix.
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But Prior said he feels that next year is too soon for his team to step up to the very highest level of the sport.
Prior told Sky Sports: “We want to be in Grand Tours very soon. We are not ready next year, but as early as 2017, we will be looking to step up again.”
While ONE, which was set up in autumn 2014 with the ambitious goal of reaching the WorldTour within five years, are seemingly well ahead of schedule to meet their Grand Tour ambitions, Prior is realistic in his assessment of his team’s prospects for 2016 and thinks that racing against WorldTour teams will be enough of a challenge for the coming season.
“We are looking at WorldTour events [in 2016], so we are going to be racing not only against Pro Continental teams, but WorldTour teams as well,” Prior added.
“It’s going to be a huge learning curve, a steep learning curve, but it’s a hugely exciting time for One Pro Cycling.”
Matt Prior discusses his hopes for One Pro Cycling
The former England cricketer emphasised that One were building a long-term project around riders who will stay with the team and made it clear that steady development was the most important factor in their decisions.
“Our roster for next year is based around young riders who have potential to go all the way, and it’s up to us to harness that potential and give them the stepping stones,” Prior said.
“The real dream is, instead of developing them and they move on, developing them and we move on together to the WorldTour and Grand Tours. How long that will take, I don’t really know and I wouldn’t want to put a time on that.
“We could be sat here this time next year with One Pro Cycling going to the WorldTour, or it might not happen. What is more important is progression and making sure that when we do make the decision to step up, it’s sustainable and we step up for a while, not just in and out.”