Less than 24 hours after his victory in Il Piccolo Lombardia, Australia's Robert Stannard has moved up to the WorldTour with Mitchelton-Scott. The 20-year-old has ridden on the team's continental squad, Mitchelton BikeExchange, for the last two seasons and was set to join the WorldTour team from 2019 onwards. However, his recent form and the chance to test himself against Europe's elite for the remainder of the campaign has convinced Mitchelton-Scott's management to move Stannard up the ranks earlier than initially planned. Stannard will make his WorldTour debut at the Tre Valli Varesine on Tuesday.
"I am really excited to be riding with the team, it is great for my development to be able to do some races already this year with the team at this level. It is a really good stepping stone for me, I know the roads for Tre Valli Varesine, I live and train in the area so it is really nice to be able to race close to home so it is a great race for me to start at with the team," Stannard said in a statement released on Monday.
"I am really excited, I don't really know what to expect but I'm sure I will be learning the whole time and hopefully I can be part of the team's success in these first races."
The rest of Stannard's 2018 race programme has yet to be decided but there are a series of one-day races in Italy between now and the end of the season.
"The Italian races are on courses that should suit a rider like Rob so it is a great place for him to start. It will be a great experience for Rob to get a head start on next season and I think with Tre Valli we can expect him to be there most of the day and on roads that he is familiar with," said sports director Dave McPartland.
Future of continental team yet to be decided
While Stannard moves up the ranks the future of the Australian continental team, Mitchelton BikeExchange remains uncertain. The team has been used as an important stepping stone for Australian and international riders before transitioning to WorldTour, but the management are still reviewing options for 2019. The current Australian riders on the team were told in August that they could look for other teams, and that the squad could potentially take on an all-Asian roster for the current campaign.
Cyclingnews understands that this decision has not been entirely signed off and that the budget discussions and several options are still in play. Like the WorldTour team, the continental outfit is financed by Gerry Ryan. He has poured millions of his own money into Australian cycling, and the likes of Caleb Ewan, Jack Haig and Lucas Hamilton have come through the continental team before turning professional with Mitchelton-Scott.
Callum Scotson - who has been on the continental team for two years - has already agreed a two-year deal with Mitchelton's WorldTour squad for 2019 and 2020. In terms of Australian talent, the team also holds Harry Sweeny, Samuel Jenner and Kaden Groves. Esteban Chaves' younger brother, Brayan, also rides for the team.
The continental team have not signed any riders for next season. A final decision is set to be made in the coming weeks.