Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford has welcomed the creation of the new Australian GreenEdge cycling team, pointing out the similarities to Team Sky.
The British ProTeam manager’s comments come despite Shayne Bannan, head of the GreenEdge project, stating that he would “target the best Australians who are out of contract at the end of 2011.”
The contracts of Simon Gerrans, Matt Hayman and Chris Sutton all end this year.
“I think it’s a very similar project to ours in terms of national team and ProTeam being very closely aligned,” Brailsford told Cyclingnews.
“It will help Australian cycling and young Australia cyclists and I think the thinking is very much the same as ours.”
GreenEdge has already faced criticism for allegedly approaching riders still under contract with other teams, although Bannan has denied any wrong doing. Under UCI regulations, formal negotiations can only take place after August 1.
However Brailsford has appeared to take a philosophical approach, despite having several possible targets for GreenEdge to sign. Garmin-Cervelo team manager Jonathan Vaughters has said he would consider taking legal action against Bannan if there were a premature move for his riders and staff.
Sky caused controversy last year in the manner they approached both Bradley Wiggins and Ben Swift. Both were eventually signed from Garmin and Katusha after drawn out negotiations.
“You can recognise how some of those guys are going to feel and when opportunities came up we were very happy to talk with some of our guys but the situation with Bradley and Swift, they were very motivated to come to a British team and some lads are going to feel the same way about riding for an Australian team and if they do feel like that then I would respect that and then it’s a case of having a grown up chat discussion about it and not get too emotional about the thing,” Brailsford told Cyclingnews.
“The Australian riders have been great in the team and we’ve been very happy with them and long may it continue. But if they think that this is an opportunity of a lifetime then I’m pretty sure we can find the best solution for everyone but it would be great if they can stay here.”
Bannan comes from a similar back ground to Brailsford having mentored and guided a successful national track programme before moving into the more complex realm of professional road cycling. One key difference being that Bannan left his track position to head the GreenEdge project. Brailsford has retained control over both Team Sky and the British track programme.
“In Shayne Bannan they have got a terrific guy to head it up,” Brailsford said. “We’ve been good friends and close competitors for a number of years and we pretty much do the same job. They’re our fiercest rivals on the track but there’s a good camaraderie and I wish them all the luck. They’ll do a good job.”
“On paper our roles are different. They decided to make a clean cut so he could make a fully focus on his time and effort on the road team. He’ll still work very closely with the track squad, I’m sure of that. It is different to how we’ve done it.”
Brailsford believes that his position has its advantages, adding greater security for the programme and providing a more cohesive unit.
“Whilst there are a lot of challenges to having both roles if it comes to the point where the national track squad wants Bradley for a track world cup, while they’re in ProTeams, even if it’s a British one, they might not allow it. If I’m sitting over both I can make a call on what’s best.”
Cavendish and Blythe
While Bannan is busy building a team from scratch, Brailsford has already assembled a mix of some of the best British and international talent into the team. Two British riders who are competing for other teams and who both formed part of the British Academy during spells of their careers are Mark Cavendish and Adam Blythe.
Cavendish is under contract with HTC-Highroad until the end of this season and his future is bound to be one of the most talked about stories this year.
“Obviously there will be growing speculation this year. It’s one of the things I’m ready to deal with, all the questions. It’s not for us to speculate at this moment in time. He’s in a team and he’s is where he is. I think the one thing I’ve learnt in the short space of time in this game is that when guys are under contract with other teams, you don’t talk about it. So we’ll have to see how that develops,” Brailsford said.
“I think Mark Cavendish will look at all his options. Quite a few teams will want him but he’ll look at all options and decide what’s best for his career. He’s very happy and in good shape and I just wish him best for the year.”
Blythe told Cyclingnews that he left the Academy by mutual consent because he wanted to race in Belgium during the early stages of his career and Brailsford admits that he still follows the promising Omega-Pharma Lotto sprinter.
“When you’re young and growing up, different things work for different people and you can’t just have one solution for every single young rider in the world and expect it work. The Under 23 Academy wasn’t necessarily the solution for Adam. That doesn’t mean to say that there are any issues with Adam, I think he’s a terrific young lad and he’s a very talented bike rider. He’s British and he’s someone you’d want to keep your eye on.”