The Sulzberger brothers will be reunited under the UniSA-Australia banner - essentially an Australian national team - for the Santos Tour Down Under, starting with the Cancer Council classic in Adelaide this coming Sunday.
Elder sibling Bernard received the seventh and final place allocated by selectors after he finished fourth at the national championship road race behind ProTour stars Jack Bobridge, Matt Goss and Simon Gerrans. That seventh spot on the start list is usually reserved for the eventual road race national champion, should he not be a member of a team already lining up for the World Tour event.
Wesley Sulzberger was one of the very first riders to be selected. He became available when his trade team, FDJ, was rejected from the ProTour at the beginning of November and therefore not eligible for the Tour Down Under.
"The day after I found out about that, I emailed [now former Cycling Australia high performance director] Shayne Bannan telling him I hoped to be considered for the Uni-SA team as I was really keen to ride the Tour Down Under anyway," the winner of French Cup race GP Plumelec told Cyclingnews from his home in Tasmania after the Australia Open Road Championships.
"This is the biggest race in Australia and I knew I'd already have good form because of training for the Nationals. The Bay crits were a very good lead up but I got a sore throat and on the second day it went to my chest; that's why I didn't have it when the decisive move went at Nationals."
But brother Bernard was healthy enough to catch up with Gerrans and co. Following the news of FDJ's relegation, the Sulzberger family got an even worse piece of news with the fallout from the Pegasus Sports situation; Bernard was supposed to race for the squad after riding successfully for Fly V Australia during the past two years.
"I've sent as many emails as I could to help Bernie find another team but it's just so late," said the younger Sulzberger. "Pegasus is still trying to set up a Continental team but it has yet to be finalised. Nothing written is confirmed, so Bernie has no job, he's unemployed at the moment but it's good that he got this spot with UniSA. He'll get exposure and hopefully it will convince a big team to sign him."
UniSA will feature three victims of the Pegasus fiasco, with Luke Roberts eyeing retirement after the two Six-Days he'll take part in throughout Europe following the Santos Tour Down Under and Jonathan Cantwell hoping to join his long time training partner Robbie McEwen and Robbie Hunter at RadioShack.
"It's a motivating factor," said Wesley Sulzberger. "If I have the opportunity to help these guys get a contract I'll do it, but I'm also keen to race for myself as I have no contract for the year after." He finished fifth overall at the Tour Down Under two years in his debut as a pro with FDJ.
Australian cyclists have a future however, as Bannan's possible involvement with a new team should be announced to the media in Adelaide on January 17. "This is an exciting perspective," Wes added. "If Bernie can get through this year, there would be a great possibility for a team like that to pick him up."
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