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Robbie McEwen and Jay Thomson.
Australian team to ride Qatar, Oman and Gent-Wevelgem
Pro Continental squad Pegasus Sports will enjoy a solid race program in the first half of 2011 despite missing out on securing a ProTeam licence last month. And the Australian squad's schedule may include a start in its home nation's round of the ProTour, the Tour Down Under.
During its first training camp in Noosa, Queensland, late last week, Pegasus' marquee rider Robbie McEwen told Cyclingnews the races the team will be contesting in 2011 and explained that team owner Chris White is awaiting confirmation from Tour Down Under organisers regarding his squad's participation in the event.
"We're waiting for a green light, which we hopefully will get, from the organisers of the Tour Down Under. Hopefully any time soon we'll get a phone call from Mike Turtur telling us that we'll be riding... we've fingers and toes crossed for that one," said McEwen.
"It'd be a fantastic start for us to ride there - as an Aussie pro team we really need the race and we hope the race needs us."
He explained that the team is placing an emphasis on the Australian national championships and hopes it can have a national champion's jersey in the ranks; McEwen, plus his 2011 teammates Bernard Sulzberger and Darren Lapthorne have worn the green and gold bands in the past (Sulzberger as national criterium champion).
It's just the start of what appears to be a busy schedule in some high-profile events.
"For me it will then be off to the Tour of Qatar and Tour of Oman; as far as I know they're a goer," McEwen continued. "Then it's on to Belgium for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, the Three Days of West Flanders plus some small Belgian semi-Classics and we just got the go ahead for Gent-Wevelgem - another ProTour start.
"A few days after that we'll have the Three Days of De Panne and Scheldeprijs. It's a good Belgian program. At the same time we'll have a few guys racing the [inaugural] Tour of South Africa (there are a couple of South Africans on the team) and we've also got the Tour of Malaysia. It's a really good program in the early season and everyone's pretty busy.
McEwen also explained that more big races could be on the cards. "Hopefully the Tour of California and who knows, maybe the Giro..." where the Australian has enjoyed success in the past. "As a Pro Continental team we can get a wildcard [entry] but we have to wait for the organisers to make those announcements - hand out the cards, and hopefully one of them is for us."