Britain's number one-ranked Continental team has renewed its partnership with sponsors Rapha, Condor and Sharp, but rather than try to enter the Professional Continental ranks, the team has decided to foster the development of young riders by forming its own development programme.
A team press release states that the team's management and sponsors wanted to support a growing British racing scene. "We firmly believe that the Rapha Condor Sharp team can make more of a contribution to UK racing by taking a different approach, with a different ambition," said Rapha CEO Simon Mottram.
That ambition involves a development program and the eventual creation of the Rapha Condor Academy, a program designed to supplement the existing British Cycling Academy, which has limited space.
"... promising juniors and espoirs have very few opportunities or openings to get into the sport and move up through the ranks," said Mottram. "For all the professional teams competing for TV airtime and UK professional race victories, few structured programs exist to develop and nurture British racing talent. The British cycling academy only has spaces for the best eight young riders each year. There are no programs in this country to rival the proven systems such as those run by Rabobank or AN-Post".
"Starting in 2012 Rapha Condor Sharp aims to fill that gap with its own development program and, ultimately, a cycle racing academy."
The team will begin by giving young British riders a spot on the team alongside the team's most experienced riders - Andrew Tennant, Ed Clancy MBE, Kristian House, Dean Downing and James McCallum.
They will mentor six under 23 riders who will be added to the team for 2012. In addition, the squad will continue to hold a mix of domestic and international talent until it can foster enough talent to have a UK-only team.
The team announced new domestic signings Richard Handley, Luke Mellor, Tim Kennaugh and Oliver Rossi plus Australians Richard Lang and Ben Grenda and South African Christopher Jennings, with further announcements expected soon.