Four hundred cyclists vote with their cleats
By John Michael Flynn in Brisbane, Australia
In what may become a role model for domestic road racing in Australia, the new Cannondale SEQ Tour was launched in Brisbane on Wednesday night in the plush surrounds of Vino's Bar & Grill on the city's riverfront.
A significant facelift for the domestic road racing scene in South-East Queensland (SEQ), four hundred cyclists have already signed up for the competition which will feature sponsored trade teams and organised club teams competing for points at races throughout the season.
Loosely modelled on the ProTour concept in Europe, the focus won't just be on the elite category, with the system of points allocation and leader's jerseys, extending from the masters division right through to juniors.
"A lot of people were saying we need to do something more in cycling in South-East Queensland," Cannondale SEQ Tour promoter Damian Copeland told Cyclingnews at last night's launch. "I think, looking at the road season as a whole, it just seemed to lack something."
The launch featured a parade of teams modelling their strips for the 2006 season and there were promising signs with the addition of several new sponsored line-ups.
South-East Queensland's established teams including Flight centre, Health Works, Yellow Jersey Bike Shop and HIT Racing, will be joined by several new players, including Team Merida, Vino's Bar and Grill and the Wilson HTM-Leggera Cycles team headed by Jono Cantwell.
The tour concept has received the blessing of Cycling Queensland, which is eager to use the season long contest as a launching pad for the State's emerging riders. "I'm very excited about the whole concept, I think it's fantastic for cycling in South-East Queensland," C.Q. supremo Wendy Sanders said. "I believe it'll be great for our riders, our young riders especially. This teams concept is fabulous and as a vice president of Cycling Australia we are trying to develop this teams concept throughout Australia."
SEQ Tour numbers have been boosted by strong interest from the masters and women's divisions. The region's elite cyclist's also looking forward to a more professional style of competition. "This is definitely what Queensland needs," Leggera's Jono Cantwell said. "They do a lot of these kind of tours down south and it works really well."
Yellow Jersey's Jaaron Poad, one of the early series favourites, also giving the concept strong endorsement. "Cycling needs all the help it can get. It's probably the best thing that can happen at the moment." said Poad.
The SEQ Tour cranks into gear at the weekend with the staging of the Nathan O'Neill Classic near Toowoomba.
For full details go to the SEQ Tour website www.seqtour.com