Cycling Australia’s largest sponsor has confirmed that he is part of a group considering backing a top-level Australian team in the near future. Gerry Ryan, owner of Jayco caravans, is expected to make an announcement during the Tour Down Under (January 18-23).
“It's not only me. There are several high-profile businessmen around that have been talking to each other," Ryan told The Sydney Morning Herald. “To be sitting in Paris [at the Tour de France] and have that Australian flag on a team car would be ideal.”
Ryan’s interest comes as a boost to Australian cycling in the wake of the ambitious Pegasus Sports project’s failure to obtain a ProTeam licence for 2011. Pegasus Sports chief executive Chris White ultimately failed to secure sufficient sponsorship for his team.
“I admire what [White] has done. Unfortunately he was let down at the 11th hour,” Ryan said. “Hopefully he can regroup and get back up and get a licence. He's broken a lot of ground, worked very hard. I have a lot of respect for what he's tried to achieve.”
Ryan also explained that the Sky template of a ProTeam with close links to a national federation is one that any new Australian team would be likely to follow. He believes such a model would be of benefit in the development of young Australian talent.
"That's a model you try and benchmark yourself on,” Ryan said. “It's no different to [Australian Rules team] Collingwood, the guns in nurturing bloods. Look at some of the sports science they are doing to get that edge."
It is no surprise, therefore, that Shayne Bannan is understood to be involved in the setting up of the team. Bannan this week resigned as Cycling Australia’s national performance director. Ryan credited Bannan’s role in attracting him to become Cycling Australia’s main sponsor.
“I have always been impressed by Shayne Bannan," he said. "You have passion but you also have to have a plan. I was impressed with where he wanted to take cycling. He had us convinced that what he needed was extra funds, so we got involved."