Brett Aitken, Madison gold medalist in the 2000 Olympic games and former world champion on the track, is to return to cycling as part of the new Australian-based Continental team Savings & Loans.
Aitken retired from cycling in 2004 when he and wife Natalie discovered they were expecting twins. That put paid to Aitken's Olympic ambitions, but the new squad will be part of the UCI's Oceania Tour series and therefore Aitken won't have to travel all over the world to race.
Aitken said he was looking forward to the challenge of returning to top level cycling as part of the new South Australian outfit. "I'm under no illusion about the hard work and commitment required to reach the top of the sport," he said. "It will be a real challenge for me but I have a burning ambition to race at the highest level again and am willing to do whatever it takes."
For Aitken, the motivator to return is seeing how far he can take road cycling after a very successful career on the track. "I feel as though I have unfinished business in the sport," he said. "Obviously, I achieved what I wanted to on the track, but as far as road cycling goes, there are a number of goals I would still like to realize.
"One of those goals is for the team to secure a place in the 2007 Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under."
The team will be managed by Australian Patrick Jonker, whose professional swansong was a victory in the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under in 2004. The new team will be very important for the development of cycling in South Australia; the state now has two UCI-registered teams with South Australia - AIS as well as Savings and Loans. (Cyclingnews is a supporting sponsor of South Australia - AIS)
"As well as featuring some of the best cyclists in the state, the team will also provide a pathway for young South Australian talent who dream of cycling in a professional outfit on the world stage," Jonker said.
Aitken will be joined on the team by current Australian road champion Russell Van Hout, Australian MTB champion Chris Jongewaard and team founder Stephen Cunningham, a stage winner at the 2005 Herald-Sun Tour.
Other major races planned for the Savings & Loans Cycling Team this year include the Herald Sun Tour in Victoria and selected Asia Pacific tours. Savings & Loans Credit Union is the principal sponsor of the team, which is also supported by Avanti Bikes.