By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
The US-based continental team Successful Living is merging with the Australian national development Virgin Blue team for 2009, and will be an Australian UCI continental team called Team V Australia/Virgin Blue. Current Successful living director sportif Steve Hegg will continue in a co-director role along with the recently retired Henk Vogels. Coming with Vogels are some of his former Toyota-United teammates who were without jobs following that team's implosion to round-out the new squad.
"We put together a Successful Living Foundation and have combined teams with Virgin Blue, an Australian cycling team," Hegg told Cyclingnews. "Right now Virgin Blue is securing some of the riders to the team, many of them from the former Toyota-United team.
The Virgin Blue team is a national development squad based in Queensland, though some of the riders already have experience racing in the US this year in the Superweek series. Hegg said that for 2009 there will be teams racing in both Australia and the US, though the team will race a full North American schedule with hopes of the major races such as Tour of California. "They are going to be racing down there for the rest of their season, but then there will be guys come over here and race the whole American calendar that we will be putting together. We are trying to get into California but have not heard yet."
Hegg said he is looking forward to working with Vogels, a long-time successful rider in the American peloton, in his new role. "Henk is going to be the director with me, but I am not sure who is going to wear the bigger hat. I have the upmost respect for Henk and I think it is going to be a 50/50 deal. He will bring along a lot of racing experience and I am hoping he brings the hammer of his style of racing. I want to see these guys harden up!"
Vogels surely knows how to race hard, coming back from a near-death crash in 2003 to race at the sport's highest level, starting with the Davitamon-Lotto team in 2005. Vogels directing this team will also see him as a mentor, helping to continue the long tradition of Australian riders finding success racing on the crit-heavy North American calendar.
Tentative racers are Australians Nathan O'Neill, Ben Day, Jonathan Cantwell, Aaron Kemps, David Kemps, Bernard Sulzberger, Ben King, Chris Prior and Darren Roth, along with Italian Alessandro Bazzana and American Michael Grabinger. Three more riders are yet to be announced but are expected to be from the former Toyota team.
Some of the Toyota riders without a confirmed team for 2009 include former US road champ Chris Wherry, Australians Hilton Clarke, Ben Day, Sean Sullivan, Kiwi Heath Blackgrove and American Justin England.