European Continental team Maxbo Bianchi will run under the Joker Bianchi name in 2008 following the signing of a new title sponsorship agreement, the Norwegian squad has announced. The Norway supermarket chain's arrival is marked to provide a big boost to the squad, which has become a breeding ground for future ProTour stars in recent years, with the new sponsor believed to be interested helping the squad expand post 2008.
"There are no plans for lifting the team up to the Pro Continental level at present moment," the team statement noted. "However, our new sponsor, Joker, has signaled that this discussion could be of interest in the future. There is no doubt that Scandinavia is in need of a Pro Continental team, and this may be a reality in one or two seasons."
The outfit, whose 2007 stars Edvald Boasson Hagen and Gabriel Rasch are heading to T-Mobile and Credit Agricole respectively next season, has signed some new talents for nest season, including European Junior Road Championship podium finisher Ole Haavardsholm. Ingar Stokstad will also ride for the re-named outfit in 2008, after taking podium positions in the junior road World Cup rounds during this season.
The pair are the biggest talents Norwegian cycling has seen for a long time, according to team sport director Gino Van Oudenhove. "Their skills and power is close to what we have seen in Edvald," he said.
Joker Bianchi 2008 roster: Lars Petter Nordhaug, Alexander Kristoff, Sten Stenersen, Joachim Bøhler, Frederik Wilmann, Stian Sommerseth, Ole Haavardsholm, Ingar Stokstad
Sports director: Gino Van Oudenhove.