It’s a tense time for the management of the Pegasus-Fly V team, who are eagerly waiting to see if they get allotted one of the prized and limited ProTeam licences (formerly called ProTour) for 2011, something that can often make or break a team. If they do secure one of the remaining slots they will become the first ever Australian team at this level, which is surprising given the nation in the world of pro cycling.
The team has been in place for four years, and has achieved over 200 victories — mainly in the U.S. and Australia, and has now reached crunch point in its long-term game plan of reaching the top level of pro bike racing.
“We started the project in 2007, with the long term aim of developing young Australian riders and to become the first Australian ProTour team,” said managing director Chris White.
“We knew that if we stayed in Australia that we’d go nowhere — there just aren’t the races for the riders to develop, so we started a split program between Australia and the U.S. The U.S. is a great place for Aussie bike riders, and a great place to develop a team and riders — it’s been very good to us. Now we’re ready to step up.”
Next year will see many more “split U.S.-Euro” ventures, although for Pegasus it’s an even bigger step.
“I think we’ll surprise a few people. I’m not saying that we’ll walk in and win, but we have some great riders and a good set up, we just haven’t had enough top level exposure to show it. I think we’re ahead of where teams like Cervelo and Sky were when they started. We have four years of experience of the project already. Cervelo won stages in all three grand Tours in their first year, too. But, we still have a way to go yet.”
Not securing a ProTour slot has been the downfall of many a team, and with a number of top riders already contracted, what would it mean to the team if it fails to make the final cut? “It would be disappointing if we don’t get a slot, but we’re aware that there are a lot of big teams out there going for the slots — if it’s not this year then we’ll work on it for the future, our sponsorship is not dependent on getting the license, it’s a long-term project.”
So far the team has signed a number of impressive names, adding to their base squad of 2010. But is it enough to compete at such a high level?
“I think we’ve got a really strong line up, and could comfortably field competitive teams in all of the ProTour races, and run two or three programs at a time. There are not many riders with the credentials of Robbie McEwen around, and I think he’s got a lot to prove … Then we have real strong guys like Svein Tuft — an amazing guy — Christian Knees and Robert Hunter, etcetera. For the classics I think we’ll be strong. For GC we do lack a little firepower. But we have three or four more signings to come, and there are some really good riders available still. But these signings will need to be very strategic for us.
“And don’t forget our original riders; they will develop a lot and learn a great deal from these riders.”
One of the team’s biggest winners this season was David Tanner, who surprisingly signed for Saxo Bank for next year.
“It was a disappointment, but we respect his choice and his decision. David is a real winner, a fighter — I’ve not seen many riders like him. But he’s also from the same town as (Saxo Bank’s) Baden Cooke, I think that was a big factor in the decision.”
Team managements and support is a huge factor in the potential success, or downfall of any team, as is morale.
The existing Fly V back up holds a lot of experience, especially in DS Henk Vogels.
“Henk has had a big role in the development of the team, and a lot of riders have really flourished under him (such as Jonny Cantwell). He has a wealth of experience. We are very much an Australian team, and bringing that Aussie attitude to the team is important to us; we call it “mateship.” It’s very welcoming and open.”
Although the title sponsor has yet to be announced, all of the relevant documentation and financial guarantees have been lodged with the UCI, along with agreement to the Pro Tour requirement to run a development team in conjunction with the Pro Tour squad. Fly V will continue as it has, but will act as a development team, and will ride a split Australian/US program.
The team will start its season in Australia during early January – Pro-Tour license or not; “The Australian Championships will be our first real outing, and we’re looking for a jersey there. If we get the license then it will be the Tour Down Under, and what a dream start it would be if Robbie McEwen could win.”
Next stop will be Europe; “We’re looking at three options for a base, all in the Belgian/Flanders area, but exactly what will depend on finances and rider logistics.”