Cycling Australia have announced its nine-rider U23 Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy team for the 2016 season that will be initially based in Belgium, a change from recent seasons when the squad was solely situated at the AIS training centre in Gavirate, Italy.
"The northern European program through spring provides more quality racing and opportunities for a young group of Australian talent to adapt to a higher level of road competition and ultimately transfer their ambitions to professional careers," explained team's sports director James Victor.
"The gap between under 23 and World Tour level has grown significantly and the tougher northern style of racing will accelerate the exposure and demands of this ruthless sport."
Selected for the team is U23 national time trial champion Callum Scotson, who has also signed a contract with the American Continental Team Illuminate squad, and U23 road race silver medallist Lucas Hamilton. Although U23 road race champion Chris Hamilton has not been selected. New Zealand Cycle Classic overall winner Ben O'Conner, and multiple para-cycling world champion on the road and track Alistair Donohoe are two further riders on the team.
Michael Storer, Daniel Fitter, Rohan Wight, Samuel Jenner and Jai Hindley round out the team.
"With such a busy Olympic year this new young group of aspiring road cyclists have a great opportunity to focus on unlimited days of quality European international competition and accelerate their development towards a professional career," added Victor. "I believe as individuals these young men will forge their motivations and decisions into whether this tough sport of road cycling to where their ambitions have guided them."
The first 14-weeks of the season will see the squad race Gent-Wevelgem/Kattekoers-Ieper (1.NCup), Le Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux (2.2), Ronde van Vlaanderen Beloften (1.NCup), La Côte Picarde (1.NCup), April - ZLM-Roompot tour (2.NCup), Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste (2.2), Paris-Arras Tour (2.2) and An Post Rás (2.2). Following the northern European block of racing, the team will shift its focus to races such as where Rob Power and Jack Haig finished second overall in the past two editions.
None of the nine-riders have previously been selected for the Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy team which has seen the likes of Rohan Dennis, Michael Matthews and Caleb Ewan progress through its ranks in recent seasons.
Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy team: Ben O'Connor (WA), Lucas Hamilton (VIC), Michael Storer (WA), Callum Scotson (SA), Daniel Fitter (QLD), Rohan Wight (SA), Samuel Jenner (NSW), Jai Hindley (WA) and Alistair Donohoe (VIC).