Pegasus Sport is still waiting to hear which status and licence it will receive from the International Cycling Union, and even if it doesn't have a new title sponsor to announce yet, the Australian-based team still hopes to ride the season-opening Tour Down Under. It also claims to have an invitation to Tirreno-Adriatico, as well as “most of the Northern Classics”.
At the moment, it looks more likely that Pegasus will receive a Professional Continental licence than a ProTeam (formerly ProTour) licence. This presents a problem for the squad in their homeland race as the Tour Down Under is a ProTour event. So far, only two non-ProTour teams have been invited to race since 2008.
Last year, Professional Continental-ranked BMC Racing Team was invited to race with world champion and Australian Cadel Evans. “BMC was a no-brainer, as they say: it guaranteed us participation of the world champion, Cadel Evans,” TDU director Mike Turtur told SBS.com.au.
Will the same apply to Pegasus, the highest-ranked Australian team featuring Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen, who has won 12 TDU stages? “Possibly,” Turtur replied. ““They could also fall in that same category. Robbie McEwen obviously represents a lot of interest for us, because he’s won more stages of our race than any other rider. So that factor would come into play.”
But the invitation also depends on a number of other factors. “There’s still a bit of a timeframe to work through. Once we get to that process, we have budget considerations to make, and other logistical issues that need to be dealt with before we even consider a wildcard for anyone,” he said.
Pegasus CEO Chris White said that it would be logical for his team to participate. “I mean, we are Australia’s best team. It is Australia’s best cycling event – Australia’s best sporting event. We’d love to be there.”
Off to Europe
White said the team already had a full race programme in Europe “of about 250 days” planned, including “most of the northern Classics”.
In addition, he reported “positive talks” with the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), owner of the Tour de France amongst other races. The current talks concerned the Tours of Qatar and Oman, as well as Paris-Nice but nothing definite had been decided yet.
“If we did well at those events and Paris-Nice, I think we’d be well-positioned to think that we’ve got an ability to do the Tour de France.”
White has hopes of another Grand Tour as well. The team has been invited to ride Tirreno-Adriatico, and he hoped that a good performance there could lead to an invitation to the Giro d'Italia, which he called “a tough one with seven mountain-top finishes. I’ve met with [Giro race director] Angelo [Zomegnan] and we’re very well received. Then again, it’s up to us to prove ourselves," admitted White, who hoped to take the team's winning streak on another level in 2011.
“We’ve come out of a couple of years of success on the international stage, predominantly in the US; we are the number-one team and we’ve got some got momentum there.” The team has been running under the name Fly V Australia as a Continental-ranked team since 2009.
“We want to carry that momentum where we left off. We’re by no means paying lip-service to how tough it’s going to be, but [as we move to Europe], that pressure is still going to be there and it’s going to be coming from us."