ONE Pro Cycling have vowed to keep their British core as they plan to move up to ProContinental level for 2016. The team are currently racing a level below, at Continental level, and formed earlier this year. An application for a ProContinental licence - one level down from WorldTour - has been submitted to the UCI and team founder and former England cricket international Matt Prior has told Cyclingnews that the budget is in place for the team’s planned expansion.
"We’re confident, having spoken to the UCI, that there shouldn’t be any problems. It’s really exciting and it will be the first time that a British team has stepped up to that level," Prior told Cyclingnews.
The longterm aim of the team is to race the Tour de France and possibly turn into Britain’s second WorldTour squad after Team Sky. Unlike their national counterparts ONE Pro Cycling have developed from a smaller base and with a much smaller budget. For Prior, this season has been about learning and development and making sure that the infrastructure is in place for next season and beyond.
"Our goal and ambition has always been to step up. For us the end game is the Grand Tours, the Tour de France and the other biggest events in cycling. We needed to put in place a plan of how we could get there," Prior said. "We didn’t want to just jump in at the deep end. We wanted a structure in place so we made a decision to start at Continental level. That was the right call but we’ve learnt a huge amount and we have great infrastructure and management system in place. We feel we’re now in a good place to make that next step up. The time is right.
"We have the finance in place to do this and the time is right. We want to do this all properly, like we’ve done at Continental level. I hope people see us as professional team who have done things in the right way."
Since announcing their plans to move up to the ProContinental ranks Prior has been inundated by riders and agents, offering their services for next season. It’s been an eye-opening experience for the former England wicket keeper who currently manages a roster of just thirteen riders Not only do the team need bodies to reinforce their young squad but they must also add quality.
For the team to make a successful transition up the ranks Prior must dovetail his search for quality riders, in the right areas, while also maintaining the team’s home-grown core.
"We picked our riders carefully last year, not just on ability but also character. It would be a shame to make the step up and then cast them aside. We have trust and faith in the riders that we have. Also, we’re a British team and we don’t want to lose our identity as we move up. It’s important that we develop young British riders. So if our goal is to be at the Tour de France imagine if we had twenty-year-olds who came with us on that journey," he told Cyclingnews.
"Of course we need to increase our rider roster and you need to strengthen your squad because we want to be competitive. We don’t just want to turn up and be another squad. We want to make sure that we’re pushing hard for podiums and getting in the breaks and looking for jerseys. We will have to bring people in but the core of the team will be what we’ve started with."
With certain teams folding, the transfer market is awash with both quality and quantity but experience is high on Prior’s needs.
"You need guys who have been there and done it at both the WorldTour and Pro-Continental level. That’s one of the best ways of developing your young talent, by allowing them the ride with the guys who have that experience."