Australian cycling could be about to have its first major team in the European peloton after Chris White of the Fly V Australia team confirmed he is working on plans to secure a UCI ProTour licence for 2011.
Speaking to the Australian newspaper, White revealed he has been working with the UCI on a ProTour application. He refused to name the major sponsor of the team or the name of any major European-based riders he is in talks with. However, veteran sprinter Robbie McEwen could be one target after confirming he wants to race for one last season in 2011. Fellow Australian Mick Rogers is also believed to be considering his future and could be a possible stage race leader for the team.
White is a Brisbane accountant, testicular cancer survivor and former racer.
"The UCI has given me an August 31 deadline to formally submit my ProTour bid," he told the Australian.
"In cycling, Australia has punched well above its weight for a number of years and now I believe we are ready to go to the next level, which is ProTour. We've got a lot of guys who could ride in the ProTour, but up to now there hasn't been an Australian team for them to aspire to. Cadel Evans, Michael Rogers, Mark Renshaw, Simon Gerrans, Stuey O'Grady, Richie Porte and Wes Sulzberger currently ride for either American, French, British or Danish teams.
"The world of cycling has been talking about establishing an Australian ProTour team for a number of years and now it's just about to happen. Fly V will be well funded and resourced and we will want to compete at the highest level and that includes the Tour de France next July. What I also want to do with Fly V is provide the structure for some of the younger Australian riders to work together and become successful together."
The Fly V team has competed successfully in the USA for the last two years and White is expected to keep a core of that team, including directors Henk Vogels and Patrick Jonker, who both raced in Europe as professionals. Riders already contracted for next season and beyond include Ben Day, Jonathan Cantwell, Bernie Sulzberger, Jay Thomson and the American Phil Zajicek. White claims more signings are planned before the end of the month.
White is planning to base the team in Belgium and has ambition to ride the Tour de France as soon as 2011.
"While the ProTour licence isn't a fait accompli, I'm confident that given road cycling's global reach, the time is now right to establish a ProTour team to race in Europe and at the Tour de France next year," White said.
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