By Gerry McManus
The new British professional cycling team Rapha-Condor-Recycling.co.uk was officially launched at a packed Singapura restaurant in Ludgate Hill in the heart of central London on Thursday evening. The team is a merger of the Rapha Condor squad captained by Dean Downing last year and the Recycling.co.uk outfit which had largely become a development road team for young riders in recent years.
"It's a bigger team for 2008," said directeur sportif John Herety. "I don't really like the word 'superteam' that has been banded around in the cycling press. It is bigger than we have had for a number of years but that reflects ambitions of the sponsors. We want to support the team in the UK but at the same time we want to ride major UCI ranked events like the Tour of Britain and Tour of Ireland as well as the other UCI ranked events."
Downing is the only member of the Rapha team to be retained in 2008 with Herety keeping faith with his Recycling riders with a sprinkling of new young blood added, making up the squad 14-strong for the forthcoming season. World and Olympic track medallist Chris Newton will be joint team leader alongside Downing, but the two riders have completely different agendas for 2008.
"We have got different goals for the season," explained Newton. "I am looking towards the Olympic Games and preparation is going to take quite a bit of my time. I am aiming for a ride in the points and team pursuit races in Beijing," said the 34-year-old from Stockton on Tees.
"I have put a lot of emphasis on the points race this year which is something we haven't done much of in the past. We have made the podium twice in the world cup events this season. There are more riders in the equation for the team pursuit this year and we will quite simply run with the fastest four."
Newton won the British Cycling Premier Series title last year but will hand over the defence of his title to Dean Downing. Downing won a number of the series races last year including the prestigious Lincoln GP near his home town of Rotherham in Yorkshire. There was a small surprise for Downing as he was presented with a cake to celebrate his birthday.
"My season will very road based," said Downing. "We have got quite a few international races planned for this year which is a good stepping stone for the young lads we have got in. But we have also got a good bit of experience in the team with Kristian House and Ben Greenwood back in the UK and in the team along with Rob Partridge and Dale Appleby.
"My target will be the Premier Calendar this year but I will also be looking for good performances that will get me selected for the international races as well," continued the 33 year-old. "The team is much bigger than I was in last year. I know a lot of the riders because I raced against them last year. It will be good to pass on some of my experience to the younger riders."
Recycling boss Charlie Jackson will be the team's general manager with Herety as directeur sportif.
Herety explained that the young riders will have a program mixed with local and national events this year. "Some of the Premier Calendar races will feature the best team, no matter what, out of respect for the quality of those events," said Herety. "The youngsters will have to go off and win smaller races. It will be there job to dominate domestic events. The idea is to teach them how to win races. The higher up the ladder you go, the more difficult it is to win races and if you don't get those skills at a young level it becomes more difficult when you climb the ladder."
There was also a surprise for Herety when Tour of Britain organiser Mick Bennett went on stage and officially invited the new team to ride the Tour of Britain in September.
Rhys Lloyd and Luke Rowe are the youngest members of the team. Lloyd has just finished his spell with the British Cycling Olympic Development squad and joins Rapha-Condor-Recycling.co.uk as a first year senior.
The full team roster: Chris Newton, Dean Downing, Kristian House, Graham Briggs, Ben Greenwood, Rob Partridge, Ryan Bonser, Dale Appleby, Matt Rowe, Simon Holt, Adam Bonser, Tom Diggle, Rhys Lloyd and Luke Rowe (junior)