By Malcolm Sawford
Team Budget Forklifts , Australia's newest UCI Continental team, was officially launched on Monday night at the Sofitel Werribee Mansion last night.
Founded in August 2008 by team manager and former successful Australian professional, Jeremy Betts, and Budget Forklifts owner Tim Leunig, the team tasted immediate success at their debut race, winning two stages and claiming the KOM jersey at the Tour of the Murray National Road Series event, and also did well at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.
Twelve riders have signed on for the 2009 season, and Betts described the squad as having a "core group of young riders bolstered by seasoned riders with many years of overseas experience." The team's philosophy is to "develop our young riders into tomorrow's champions" and by following this philosophy they aim to become the best UCI team in Australia.
Budget Forklifts is a 40-year-old family company which began in Western Australia and now operates Australia wide. Leunig said the family ethos has always been "to support our people, and really look after them: from that we get great results. In our business we have always trained a lot of apprentices, and that's how I see this team; a development team where we will really look after these young guys. We have an exciting year ahead!"
Among the special guests at the launch was the 'voice of cycling', Phil Liggett, who was flown by helicopter to and from the Sofitel by Leunig to allow him to honour a dinner engagement with Jayco Caravan's owner, Jerry Ryan. Liggett helped introduce the riders, and also commented that the last team launch he had attended was for Pro Tour squad Columbia in 2008. Columbia went on to record the highest number of wins in 2008, which Liggett hoped was a good omen for Team Budget Forklifts prospects in 2009.
The team will contest all NRS events and other major races in Australia, and hopes for invitations to some major tours in Asia. Such is the quality of racing now available in Australia, and the package presented by Betts and Leunig, that riders of the calibre of Cameron Jennings, Cameron Hughes and Cody Stevenson have chosen to sign with Team Budget Forklifts rather than return to Europe or the USA. Both Jennings and Stevenson are Cyclingnews diarists. Five of the riders are currently competing in the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic; all will tackle the Australian Open Road Championships in Buninyong later this week.
"It's a great team," concluded Betts. "A great mix of young guys and older guys. We've got great sprinters and great climbers – we'll have a great year!"
The roster includes U23 riders Jack Anderson, Darcy Rosenlund, Malcolm Rudolph and Blair Windsor. The experienced part of the squad is made up by Michael England, Cameron Hughes, Grant Irwin, Cameron Jennings, Peter Ladd, Abram Manion, Craig McCartney and Cody Stevenson.
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