By Hedwig Kröner
Continental Teams DFL and Cyclingnews.com have announced their merger to form a new team with both sponsors' names. DFL/Cyclingnews.com will become a British registered team in the next season, but based in Booischot, Belgium. The team's management will be headed by Nick Collins as Managing Director, with Gilbert de Weerdt as Performance Director and Rudi Dubois the Commercial Director. Its race calendar will include European, North American, Asian as well as Australian events.
"We were a British-based team this year, but really, the place for us to be riding is on the European continent, especially Belgium," Nick Collins, the managing director of Driving Force Logistics (DFL) explained. "DFL has the financial and commercial requirements, and Cyclingnews.com the operational and cycling experience. So it's an ideal situation for both of us."
Gilbert de Weerdt, team manager of Australian squad Cyclingnews.com and the new Performance Director of the merged team, confirmed. "They had the ambition to grow, and we had the same goal," De Weerdt said. "It works out perfectly."
Flèche Wallonne and Tour de France stages winner Danny Willems has been appointed Directeur Sportif of the new team. "We're very pleased to have him on board," Collins said. "Each member of the management team has his part to play, and as I come from the world of business I want the team structure to be as professional as possible, built from the top down. That's how we'll achieve results."
A twelve-man squad has been announced, with a 13th member due to sign at the beginning of December. Both Collins and De Weerdt are very happy with the composition of the new squad, and with the individual riders each team is contributing.
"The riders that stayed with us include Cameron Jennings, who's very reliable and a strong rider," said de Weerdt. "Then we have Jeremy Vennell from New Zealand, who's very talented - we hope that he can make the best of it next year as he's progressing enormously. Kane Oakley and Leigh Palmer are our two irreplaceable helpers, who do a huge amount of work for the team. Sven, my son, has a lot of experience in the Belgian races, which makes him a tactical asset. Tom Barras also stayed with us for his sixth year. Bernie Sulzberger was a guest rider in the Sun Tour, and now we took him over here.
"Initially, the idea was to have six British and six non-British riders," De Weerdt continued when asked about the nationality mix in the squad. "As Tom Barras was already in our team, we now have a majority of British riders."
The newly signed Downing brothers, as well as DFL rider Yanto Barker will lead the new team in 2006. "We've added a National champion, a National series circuit champion, the best British rider in the Tour of Britain..." Collins said. "It's a really well-balanced squad, and we have five or six riders in that team that are capable of winning a race, so we're not focusing on one leader only: We were looking for a versatile team."
As for its 2006 racing programme, DFL/Cyclingnews.com is able to plan ahead. "There are plenty of race invites on the table already: The Tour de Beauce in Canada, China, the Tour of Britain, and of course plenty of events allover Europe. We'll participate in 1.1 and 1.2 UCI category races, and definitely more stage races next year. Our goal is a top 20 placing in the European Tour rankings," Collins concluded.
The team roster lists as follows:
Russell Downing (British National Champion), Yanto Barker (GBr), Dean Downing (GBr), Tom Barras (GBr), Alex Coutts (GBr), Matt Brammeier (GBr), Leigh Palmer (GBr/Aus), Sven de Weerdt (Bel), Jeremy Vennell (Nzl), Cameron Jennings (Aus), Kane Oakley (Aus) and Bernie Sulzberger (Aus).