Shayne Bannan, the general manager of the GreenEdge team, attended the UCI meeting in Brussels as he continues to build the first ever Australian ProTeam in professional cycling for its debut in 2012.
Bannan, and financial manager Alvaro Crespi, who played a key role in the success of the Mapei team, quickly began to study the details of the inch-thick instruction manual for the 2012 ProTeam application, as they work on building the new team from scratch.
The creation of the GreenEdge project was announced during the Tour Down Under in January and now Bannan is working hard on making it a reality. He is currently setting up the team's headquarters and service course in Varese, in northern Italy, and choosing the expected staff of 30 that will be the backbone of the team. He has also talked to potential riders for the teams to make sure the first ever Australian team will have enough quality riders to secure a ProTeam licence.
"I'm pretty satisfied with how things are going. We're where we should be in regards to the setting up of the management company and the team base in Varese," Bannan told Cyclingnews during an exclusive interview.
"We're also working on the logistics, the trucks, the buses and on the equipment. We've just announced Santini as our clothing sponsor and we should finalise all the details of the equipment we'll use on the Scott bikes by mid-May.
"The whole structure of the team and the back-up we can offer riders is very important to us. We know that to compete for the signature of the best riders we've got to offer an attractive package. The decision to join a team is an emotional one as much as it is a technical or financial decision. We have to be at the same level or even better than the current teams out there if we want to have the best riders."
The GreenEdge team has been bankrolled by a consortium of investors led by Gerry and Andrew Ryan of Jayco, but Bannan confirmed that the team may also have a title sponsor in place for its debut in 2012.
"We haven't come to a decision on the exact name of the team but there will definitely be the GreenEdge logo on the jersey," he assured. "We're in discussions with several parties at the moment and we'll get to a stage in the year when we decide if we have a title sponsor if we continue without one."
A global team with Australian DNA
When Dave Brailsford presented the British Team Sky project, he set the lofty target of winning the Tour de France within five years. Bannan is wise enough to avoid making similar proclamations. The GreenEdge team will be ambitious but will also develop over time.
"I think we'll probably start off as more of a Classics looking team more than a stage race team, with perhaps 50% of the riders being Australian," he explained, admitting that there may even be room for a few British riders amongst the Aussies.
"Perhaps in four or five years we'd like to develop into a stage race team, but I think it's important to be realistic about the whole process. We want to be a global team with Australian DNA, and so we'd like to have mix of Australians, Europeans and North America riders. We'll even consider taking a few Brits if they are good enough and fit in well with our set-up."
Bannan has a wish list of riders he'd like to sign for 2012. Cadel Evans is under contract with BMC but almost every other big-name Australian is likely to be on the market and so on his list: Richie Porte, Stuart O'Grady, Michael Rogers, Milan-San Remo winner Matt Goss, Leigh Howard, Cameron Meyer, Brett Lancaster, Jack Bobridge, Allan Davis and Simon Clarke.
GreenEdge needs points to secure a place in the top 20 of the UCI ProTeam sporting ranking and so Bannan is well aware he will have to carefully do his maths and compete with other teams to sign riders with points.
Under UCI rules, riders can't sign contracts until August and teams hate their riders being tapped up by cash-rich new teams. Eager to avoid any kind of conflict, Bannan will only go as far as admitting he has spoken to riders but insists no deals have yet been agreed upon.
"We've had a lot of informal talks but the real negotiations will start later on. We know the guys pretty well, so we talk to them quite a lot anyway," he said.
GreenEdge sparked the ire of Garmin-Cervélo team manager Jonathan Vaughters earlier this year when it was rumoured they were talking to Bobridge and Meyer. However, Bannan is bluntly honest about his rider signing strategy.
"Jonathan got a bee in his bonnet earlier in the year but we don't want to upset any team, that's not the way we want to do things. We've got a big list and basically if any Australian is out of contract at the end of the season, then we're interested in them. But there's still a long way to go in the whole process of signing riders."
"We know we need riders who also have points, who can helps us obtain a ProTeam licence for 2012. We know we'll be up against four, five or six other teams out of the 18 in the WorldTour, who all want a ProTeam licence, so were going to have to be good and competitive when it comes to making offers. But they won't only be financial offers, it will also be about offering a team structure that looks after the riders and is successful."
A new challenge
Despite facing a heavy workload to build a major ProTeam from scratch, Bannan appears energetic and eager to succeed. He quit his position as high-performance manager at Cycling Australia to manage the GreenEdge professional team and is convinced he did the right thing. He did not want to try and wear two hats and juggle running the Australian national team and a nascent Australian professional team.
"I admire what Dave Brailsford has done with British Cycling and Team Sky but we're very different people. I'm not as intelligent as he is and I'd find it very difficult to handle two roles with the National team and a professional team," he said.
"I'm sure I've made the right decision. The guys who replaced me are doing a fantastic job at Cycling Australia and I've found the new stimulation I needed. I'm really excited about the GreenEdge team, especially now it's all coming together."