Following this morning's announcement from the UCI that GreenEdge has secured a ProTour license for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the team's general manager Shayne Bannan says it's time for the real work to begin.
The Australian-based outfit has created history, becoming the first team from the nation to reach the very top level of the sport. While management staff has spent much of 2011 preparing for next season, with a firm picture in their mind of their objective, the confirmation from the UCI creates a new reality.
The process perhaps didn't go as smoothly as management would have liked, with The UCI issuing a list of top 15 ranked teams toward the WorldTour on October 15 and later confirmed their status. Three more were selected on November 21 with GreenEdge and RadioShack-Nissan-Trek the last two teams to receive confirmation. The two new entities were forced to provide extra paperwork to the sport's Licensing Commission on November 21.
"Throughout the whole process we were fairly confident but you never know until you get that final fax but it was a real relief to actually get it and everybody's got a real spring in their step now," Bannan told Cyclingnews from Canberra where GreenEdge is currently holding its training camp. "We're looking forward to getting on with the next part of the job which is creating the team culture and being successful in competition.
"Everybody is ecstatic. They know that are program is set, they know that they're in the best competition in the world so everybody's really looking forward to it. I tried to keep them updated as to how it [the application process] was progressing, in particular for the [ProTour] license, just to keep everybody's mind at ease and we were always as truthful as possible."
Bannan was awoken in the middle of the night by a phone call from the team's administrative base in Italy, which had received the fax from the UCI.
"It was difficult to get back to sleep because you're focussing now on the real stuff and that's getting the team ready for competition," he admitted.
Speaking in Melbourne in October, GreenEdge's financial backer Gerry Ryan admitted that a major sponsor was unlikely for the team in its inaugural season, something that Bannan says today is still the case. However, Bannan continues to maintain his long-held belief that with GreenEdge's competitive future now secured, the job of selling to potential sponsors has just become a whole lot easier with a ProTour license and the guaranteed start in the 28 WorldTour events.
"Until today we've really just been a project," Bannan explained. "We took the philosophy that we were really going to focus on the brand GreenEdge, we were going to focus on getting the license and now we've done that we're in a position to create a really good image for the team which will hopefully entice a major partner over the next year or so."
With the first of the WorldTour events, the Santos Tour Down Under which begins on January 15, on home soil, GreenEdge could not ask for a better launching pad in their inaugural year. Despite this, Bannan admits competition within the team will be fierce to make the final cut, with 90 per cent of the team locked in and an announcement due mid this month regarding the final roster for the start line in Adelaide.
At this stage of the year, people are in various stages of their preparation going into 2012 so whilst it's not an easy selection to make – there's a lot of Australians in the team and they want to be in the first Australian team to ride the first event on the WorldTour – it's not dissimilar to picking a Worlds team or an Olympic team actually so it's the same sort of pressure," he conceded.
GreenEdge kicked off their training camp in capital, Canberra last week with the squad embarking on long rides between the national capital and Thredbo in the alpine region, along with biomechanical testing at the Australian Institute of Sport. For the most part, it has so far gone without a hitch until Kiwi Julian Dean clipped wheels with Landbouwkrediet recruit Aidis Kruopis. Dean sustained a fractured scapula in the crash but Bannan is hopeful the leadout man will be on the trainer "in the next week or so," with limited disruption to his preparation for next season.
"I spoke with him this morning and he's in good spirits," Bannan said. "He'll miss a little bit of the first part of the season but he'll be right to go come March-April."
Kruopis' injuries were limited to requiring a few stitches.