As Shayne Bannan's GreenEdge project ramps up its efforts to gain a UCI ProTeam licence for 2012, a perfect storm is brewing as top teams fight to hold on to their Australian talent. For the riders themselves, it may be a case of once bitten, twice shy.
It would no doubt be a mouth-watering prospect for Australian riders to be linked with a home-grown team, however it is a move that comes with some trepidation, especially following Pegasus Sports' failed bid to create Australia's first-ever ProTeam or second-ever Professional Continental outfit.
Bannan accepts that given that a number of seasoned professionals were caught out by the Pegasus collapse, it's not going to be an 'easy' decision to jump ship to a team in its infancy.
"We're going to really do our homework and spend a lot of time and energy on our structure so when we get the opportunity to go to riders and their managers, we've got a really good package," he explained to Cyclingnews.
Cyclingnews' research suggests that over a dozen Australian riders are off contract at the end of the current season. When GreenEdge was launched at the Tour Down Under last January, Bannan said that he was aiming for a roster made up of 75 per cent Australian riders, claiming "I don't really think it's healthy to state that we want to be 100 per cent Australian - I think that may cause a little bit of complacency." With that in mind, the next few months will prove crucial for both Bannan and his potential targets.
Bannan says that GreenEdge will only court "guys who are at the end of their contracts at the end of this year."
Australians up for contract renewal include: Allan Davis (Astana), Rohan Dennis (Rabobank Continental), Mitchell Docker (Skil-Shimano), Simon Gerrans (Sky), Matthew Goss (HTC-Highroad), Robbie McEwen (RadioShack), Jack Bobridge, Cameron and Travis Meyer (Garmin-Cervelo), Stuart O'Grady (Leopard Trek), Saxo Bank-SunGard's Baden Cooke, Richie Porte and Luke Roberts, Cameron Wurf (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Luke Durbridge (Jayco-AIS). Add Matthew Lloyd who was recently released by Omega Pharma-Lotto, and you have a skeleton of a particularly impressive team.
This week, Davis claimed that he is on the outer with Astana as evidenced at the Tour of Turkey because he is on GreenEdge's radar.
Goss, whose results have come thick and fast over the last 12 months of racing, has the interest of several teams. He says that Pegasus is certainly at the back of his mind when it comes to determining his next steps.
"The team they're [GreenEdge] setting up seems very professional and that's a good thing because I think we've all seen last year that if things are a bit rushed it doesn't always turn out for the best," he told Cyclingnews. "You can really be left high and dry with not a lot left to go on.
"It's always going to be a risk no matter where the new team is coming from and it's not really a team until the last minute in the season. You've just got to hope that the team has got everything set up right. You've got to have a lot of confidence in these people to be able to pull off something like that."
Bannan agrees that the task for GreenEdge over the coming months is a challenging one, but is confident of what he can put on the table explaining that it's not just about the economic advantages for the riders but it's also about the services that can be provided in athlete welfare, in physiology and biomechanics.
"We're understanding that they're in good teams at the moment so we've got a certain standard that we've set ourselves and we've got to come up to," he said.
"They've got to see it as something that's got to value-add to their career. I've got to admit, we're still a fair way off achieving that but I'm still confident that when the time comes, we'll be able to put a really good package to the rider."
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As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.
Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.
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