New top-flight squad planned for 2019
The manager of the British junior team, alumni of which include Adam and Simon Yates, has outlined plans to start a WorldTour squad, possibly as early as 2019.
VCUK-Champion System are currently an elite team racing mainly on the national circuit, and its junior teams have produced the Yates twins, Cannondale-Drapac neo-pro Hugh Carthy, Axeon Hagens Berman rider Chris Lawless and most recently current junior world cyclo-cross champion Tom Pidcock.
Now, though, the team’s manager Wayne Greenhalgh has grander ambitions.
“We have big aspirations,” Greenhalgh told Cycling Weekly.
“Wouldn’t it be a fantastic story: we developed these riders in Britain and then created a WorldTour team with all those guys back together.
“It would be a mega story. And it’s on, we’re doing it. Absolutely the WorldTour is an aim.”
Clothing company Champion System — where Greenhalgh is a director — currently make WorldTour team UAE-Abu Dhabi’s jerseys (formerly Lampre-Merida), and they have been talking to large sponsors about co-investing in their own WorldTour project.
“We’re actively working on a few sponsorship deals for the next year or two and talking to different people,” Greenhalgh said.
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“The sponsors we are talking to, these are big brands who don’t want to do it small, they want to be associated with something big. Are they interested? Absolutely.
“It might be that we create a Professional-Continental team first, but who knows, if we get some of the bigger backers on board, a WorldTour team [from the start].”
Though Greenhalgh says that they plan to learn from failed top-level teams of the past, similar projects have been unable to get going in previous years, such as Formula One driver Fernando Alonso’s much talked about WorldTour team.
Additionally, with the UCI insisting that there will only be 16 WorldTour teams in 2019, it would mean three present teams would have to either fold or be relegated to Pro-Conti level, if the successor to VCUK were to be granted a top-tier licence.
But promisingly for their aims, Carthy’s current Cannondale-Drapac and the Yates twins’ Orica-Scott contracts run out at the end of 2018 — leaving the door open for a potential reunion with Greenhalgh, if the required sponsors can be found.