The Arbitrage Wormall Nicheliving team based in Western Australia has formed a partnership with one of Belgium's top u-23 teams, Bianchi-Lotto- Close2-NHT that will provide young WA cyclists the opportunity to spend part of their race season in Europe. Bianchi Australia has also come on board and will supply the Australian riders with the Sempre Pro equipped with Shimano groupsets.
The Australian contingent in the newly-formed Bianchi-Lotto-Arbitrage squad will race selected National Road Series events while retaining a heavy focus on the Belgian campaign.
"We didn't want to turn our backs on the Australian domestic scene but I did want the team to be focussed on giving these guys the opportunity to race in Europe," team owner Tony Anderson told Cyclingnews.
The newly formed arrangement with the Belgium u-23 team offers Australian riders a defined pathway into European racing, instead of having to do it on their own. Six riders will be selected from the Australian contingent to travel and race in Belgium for up to six months each year.
"We've agreed we will become a satellite team of their team in Belgium. The idea is that we will send up to six riders from Australia to race in their team. They get starts in most of the major espoirs tours and one-day races including Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix," explained Anderson.
Team owner Anderson explained the programme would also provide another step for riders graduating from the Western Australia Institute of Sport (WAIS). He will also run a u-19 team, providing riders the opportunity to step up into the Bianchi-Lotto-Arbitrage when the time comes.
"At the moment if you come out of the high-performance program at WAIS there isn't a lot on offer. If you are lucky you might get picked up by Jayco but even those squads are shrinking.
"There are very limited opportunities for some of those high-performance athletes who come out of that program so they [WAIS] are very keen to work with us to identify different riders," Anderson told Cyclingnews.
The team will race a number of NRS races throughout the year which will give the less experienced riders, who do not head to Europe, plenty of race days and a chance to prove they are ready for the European scene.
"If we can continue to build this association we've got with Bianchi-Lotto over the next year or two I think it will put us in the position to attract further sponsors and then see where it can go from there," said Anderson.