The Professional Continental outfit Pegasus Sports welcomed its 20-man roster, which includes eight riders who raced for the Continental team Fly V Australia this year, to an opening meet and greet held in Noosa, Australia this week. Team Manager Chris White assured that the riders who have upgraded from the Continental team are eager and equipped to handle the higher level of competition that the will inevitably face in major international events during the 2011 season.
"We got here yesterday and it's going well," White told Cyclingnews. "It is the first camp for the year for the Professional Continental team. The purpose of the camp is just to get to know everyone and we have a significant number of new faces in the group. We are here to get our first lot of equipment and to get to know each other. We've done some good activities and some surfing which was good fun. We are here for one full week. So much of cycling is about teamwork and having strong relationships around communication, that's paramount."
The eight riders that have stepped up from the Fly V Australia Continental team into the Pegasus Sports Professional Continental program include Australia's Ben Day, Bernard Sulzberger, Jonathan Cantwell, Aaron Kemps, Jai Crawford and South Africa's Darren Lill and Jay Thomson along with one American, Phil Zajicek. Those riders will have the rare opportunity to learn from veteran racers like Robbie McEwen and Robbie Hunter.
"Some of the guys have mentors and are going to be racing with teammates that they can talk to and learn from," White said. "I think making that step up and learning is a big part of our structure that we have set in place. We are in a position now where those eight guys have some breathing room because we have brought on some great riders who have a lot of European experience and success from the pro peloton already. That will take some pressure off of those riders who are coming from Fly V Australia but we are still expecting some good results throughout the course of 2011."
The eight riders were offered upgraded contracts based on a successful season in 2010. Some of the highlights include securing for Fly V Australia the National Racing Calendar (NRC) overall team title via winning performances at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, Tour of Somerville, Tour of Elk Grove, stages of the Tour of Utah and the Presbyterian Invitational Criterium along with the non-series event Tour de Beauce. The team also displayed a strong performance at the Amgen Tour of California where Zajicek place tenth overall, multiple top ten stage places and a solo attempt at victory from Day on stage five into Bakersfield.
"We've certainly taken a step up as we've gone from the US program to the blow torch that can be Europe," White said. "I think if you look at how the team performed at the Amgen Tour of California, the stats show that that event was equally as difficult if not more difficult than some of the Grand Tour stages, although not as long. Phil Zajicek and Jonny Cantwell got a couple of top fives and the team rode the front all the way to Bakersfield, Ben Day almost won a stage this year. I think that the guys are more than capable of making that step up and they've demonstrated that on the road over the last couple of years. We had a great season this year and we are expecting to carry some of that momentum into 2011. They guys are all capable."
According to White, Pegasus Sports will have some presence in the US racing scene with a focus on garnering an invitation to the Amgen Tour of California in May and the TD Bank International Cycling Championships held in Pennsylvania in June and the Quiznos Pro Challenge held in August in Colorado. In the USA, the team is only be eligible to compete in UCI-sanctioned events according to UCI code 2.1.009.
"The team will racing in the US but the program has not been finalized yet," White said. "It will be very competitive to get a race start at the Amgen Tour of California but we would love to be there with our squad. It has been a really great race for us to do in the States and we would love to continue to do so."
V Australia continues as a Continental team with nine new riders
The Fly V Australian Continental has signed four returning riders and nine new riders for a 13-man roster. The roster will be announced at a later date. White noted that the team name has dropped the Fly and will now be known as V Australia Pro Cycling Team.
"We are not using the Fly anymore because we want more people to understand that our branding is the airline," White said. "I will say that the team will be led by a former Australian road cycling national champion who is new to this squad but he is coming from another Australian cycling team.
"The race program is going to have a really similar look and feel to the team that we have had in the US," he said. "Those riders have some big shoes to fill because our results this year in the US have been great. But the talent we've got lined up for the squad is capable of picking up where we left off."
The V Australia Continental team will focus on NRC and USA Cycling events. However, all domestic teams must register with USA Cycling if they want to factor into the overall team standings. The rule states, "All domestic elite teams will be required to register rosters with USA Cycling in order to be calculated in the NRC team standings. This will facilitate a clearer representation of the team points standings. (Individuals will be able to gain individual NRC points as in previous seasons.)"
V Australia will also contest several overseas races beginning in Asia at the Tour of Korea. "We have enough racing that we will not send two teams to the US," White said. "We are requesting some race starts outside of the US for V Australia. However, the team will be a predominantly US-based racing program."