Former director of Cycling Australia's High Performance Program, Shayne Bannan, today launched what he says will be Australia's first ProTour team in 2012.
Announcing the advent of GreenEDGE Cycling, Bannan told reporters that the team is aiming for a place in the UCI ProTour in 12 month's time and will spend the rest of 2011 making roster preparations with riders out of contract at the end of the season ahead of its licence application later in the year.
While it has been roughly 12 months in the making, the team has been kept under wraps for the last several months and today Bannan said that the squad would comprise up to 75 percent Australian riders on its roster while Neil Stephens will complete the Australian flavour as a directeur sportif.
"Realistically, we have the depth to have 100 percent [Australian riders] - not just for one team, but maybe two teams on the World Tour," said Banna. "But 75 percent is a really good number, not forgeting that cycling is a very global sport and the various partners we have in the future could have interests in America, or China, or Germany... So we very much want to make it a global team and an international team as well.
"I don't really think it's healthy to state that we want to be 100 percent Australian - I think that may cause a little bit of complacency," he added.
Bannan explained that the team's operating budget will be in the vicinity of 10-16 million Euros, putting it amongst the top 10 teams in terms of UCI ProTeam selection criteria.
"We're in discussion with the UCI about the process that has to be undertaken to achieve a ProTour licence," Bannan said, adding that relationships built with the likes of the recently-deceased Also Sassi and Giorgio Squinzi - the men behind the Mapei juggernaut of the mid 1990s - were instrumental in getting the project off the drawing board and into an open agenda.
He cited the examples of Team Sky and Garmin-Cervélo as teams that GreenEDGE aspires to emulate in terms of sponsorhip and management structure, explaining that the team itself may not necessarily be funded by one main sponsor in its first season but it already has several companies financing the operation to form its significant budget.
And in the same mould as the latter example above, the project will also include a women's squad, which will share the team's Varese base, the facility for which is due to be opened in March this year. It will include office and admin areas, physiological and performance testing capabilities and will host Australian athletes from other sports such as rowing, athletics and even soccer.
"The key word in this project is 'sustainability'; sure, it's about winning races and creating a fantastic image but it's also about creating a real legacy, it's about lasting for six-to-eight-to-ten-to-twelve years..."