A huge three-year financial commitment from one of Australian sport’s biggest benefactors will propel the new GreenEDGE cycling team to the Tour de France.
The official launch of the team on Monday in Adelaide, following months of speculation and rumour, is a landmark moment in Australian cycling history.
The Ryan family, which owns the Jayco caravan empire, will bankroll the 10-16 million euro ($A13.5-21.6 million) annual budget needed to finance the team.
GreenEDGE aims to generate enough sponsorship from other areas that it can operate without the Ryans’ help by 2013.
Australian riders are already asking team general manager Shayne Bannan for details about the team, which will spend the next few months building staff and resources ahead of the crucial August 1 date.
That is when GreenEDGE can submit its official ProTeam licence application to cycling’s world governing body the UCI and when the new team can start formally negotiating with riders.
“We’ll be working very hard to achieve the pro licence for the world tour for 2012 – that’s our aim, that’s our objective,” Bannan said.
“The critical point here is we have committed funding – it’s not necessary that we chase a commercial sponsor.”
GreenEDGE is the latest and clearly the best-resourced bid to put together a top-level men’s road team based in Australia.
Only last month, the Pegasus project floundered when it failed to gain a pro-continental licence.
Money has always been a huge issue for Australian bids, but the Ryan seed funding means GreenEDGE can look for sponsorship and build the team.
Gerry Ryan has been a long-time supporter of Australian cycling through Jayco, while his son Andrew will be a GreenEDGE director.
One immediate issue is who will be the 15 riders who will form the initial GreenEDGE squad.
US team Garmin-Cervelo is stacked with Australian talent and its boss Jonathan Vaughters has already warned of legal action if Bannan operates outside rider transfer rules.
Garmin-Cervelo riders Jack Bobridge and Cameron Meyer are two of the best young cyclists in Australia.
Up to 75 per cent of the team will be Australian, with under-23 local riders Luke Durbridge and Michael Hepburn potentially the first signings.
Bannan made a point of saying at the media launch that he was friends with many Australian riders and they had been approaching him, not the other way around.
He refused several times to nominate riders who might be recruiting targets.
“Obviously it’s in our best interests to target the best Australians who are out of contract at the end of 2011,” Bannan said.
“At the appropriate time, we will be in more formal negotiations, discussions with them.”
Australian stars Simon Gerrans and Baden Cooke will be out of contract later this year, but stressed on Monday they are happy at their current teams.
Still, they also readily admitted to excitement about GreenEDGE.
“It’s exciting, it’s really exciting, it’s something all Aussie professionals have been talking about for a long, long time,” Gerrans said.
“I’d be super-interested to hear about it … what they have to offer.
“Definitely, I might have a big decision to make at some point.”
GreenEDGE will also aim to form a women’s professional team for next year and to promote track cycling.
Bannan said one of the key focuses at GreenEDGE would be to help the sport combat doping.
by Buford Balony