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Greece gets its first UCI mountain bike team

Greece has supported three professional continental cycling teams in the past few years, but 2010 marks the first year it has a UCI-registered mountain bike team. The Podilatis - Bianchi squad aims to promote the sport of mountain biking in Greece while also supporting several young athletes.

Greek junior national champion Nikos Tahopoulos will be on the elite men's squad along with up and coming talent Charoun Molla Amet Ali Oglou. Dimitra Plessioti, also a road and track cyclist, will represent the women while Panagiotis Vlachos, who was third at last year's junior Greek national championship, will continue to compete in the junior category.

The team will be running on a pilot basis for 2010, taking advantage of the 12 international races being held in 2010 in Greece. Those events will give the team's young athletes useful experience as well as UCI points. The team will also participate in the World Cup at Val di Sole in Italy.

The racers are being supported by a team of sports science experts including an Assistant Professor of physiology at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, Kosmas Christoulas, who is monitoring the physionlogical performance of the racers. Assistant Teacher of Sports Medicine, Evagelia Kouidi, is responsible for their cardiological and health monitoring, and Stavros Kavouras, Assistant Professor of physiology and nutrition the Harokopion University of Athens is serving as team nutritionist.

Podilatis shops are the main sponsor of the team. The team will race on Bianchi Kyklopodilatikis.

Thomas Mittaw, the manager of Outsports sports management and a UCI international commissaire since 2001, will direct the team. He coached the Greek National Mountain Bike team from 1995 to 1999 and was facilities manager for mountain biking during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

The team kicked off operations with physiological testing, which will be completed next week. Riders will begin racing during the last two weeks of February, and will contest their first international race with the opening round of the Mountain Bike & Run Cup on March 14 in Athens.

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.