Chris White interview: Pegasus Racing - building Australia’s first ProTour team
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Friday, October 01, 2010

Chris White interview: Pegasus Racing - building Australia’s first ProTour team

by Ed Hood at 12:40 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Today is deadline for ProTour licence applications

Chris WhiteIt’s an important time for Chris White and the others working at the Pegasus Racing company, with the worlds taking place in Australia and their application for a UCI ProTour licence due to be lodged today.

White is attempting to go from being David to becoming Goliath, taking the Continental Fly V Australia team and building upon that to graduate to the very top rank of the sport. He’s got an as-yet unnamed main backer in place, a multi-million dollar budget to hand, and has signed several key names for 2011.

The chief rider who has committed to the project is the triple Maillot Vert and 12-time Tour de France stage winner Robbie McEwen. Others who have been confirmed are McEwen’s Katusha team-mate Serguei Klimov, Svein Tuft and Trent Lowe (Garmin-Transitions), Christian Knees and Luke Roberts (Milram), Clinton Avery (RadioShack stagiaire) and Bobbie Traksel (Vacansoleil).

This week, according to Biciciclismo and Wielerland.nl, two more have been added to the roster: the South African sprinters Robert Hunter (Garmin-Transitions) and Daryl Impey (RadioShack).  White confirms the former in our interview.

They are all well-known names, but White is keen to try to add a big gun or two. One of those on his wish-list is Fabian Cancellara, although it is reported that he is also in talks with the new Luxembourg team and Team Sky. Whether or not he’s available, White said he is determined to pick up one or more major names in order to make the strongest case possible.

It was originally expected that the title sponsor and full lineup would be announced this week, but the furore around the Alberto Contador positive means that this has been postponed.

VeloNation recently spoke to White on his plans, getting an insight into how he intends to catapult his Fly V team from Continental status to being Australia’s first Pro Tour team.

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VeloNation: What’s your background, Chris?

Chris White: I’ve been in Australian cycling for a long time but my professional background is as an accountant – that means that the business side of running a team isn’t too much of a stretch for me.

It’s the combination of love and experience of the sport coupled with my background in large businesses that’s enabling me to springboard into organising a team at this level.

VN: What is Fly V?

CW: Virgin Blue Airlines is an Australian airline with 37% of it owned by Sir Richard Branson; Fly V is the international operation.

The routes at the moment are mainly to the USA but there are also flights to Phuket and South Africa; the intent is to become a major carrier to rival Qantas as Australia’s number one airline.

VN: Isn’t a difficult pitch to sponsors, saying ‘we might get a Pro Tour licence?’

Chris WhiteCW: We won’t find out until November if our application has been successful; the fully completed application has to be with the UCI by October 1.

We think that we have a strong application based on all of the criteria – sporting, financial, ethical and administrative.

If we don’t succeed with our Pro Tour application then we’ll automatically achieve Pro Continental status. The team will be committed to a European programme and we’ll be fully involved in the blood passport scheme.

VN: How have you found the UCI to deal with?

CW: Responsive and helpful, on the small number of times that I’ve asked a question the answers were quick and succinct.

VN: There are new rules which make it tougher for Pro Continental teams to ride Grand Tours and Classics…

CW: It’s an interesting and complex place to operate but we think that an Australian team would be attractive to organisers.

Australian riders all display fighting spirit and as a nation we’re ranked number four in the world – but we also believe that we’ll earn starts through our results.

VN: Have you been canvassing organisers?

CW: Yes, but it’s a sport characterised by hundreds of organisers all with their own different ideas on what they’re looking for in their race.

VN: What type of team do you want to build – GC, Classics or sprint?

CW: On paper, the team will be well rounded but with a strong skill set on one day races and Grand Tour stages; and we’d like to ride well in the Classics.

As for GC contention, we’ll be strong in stage races up to one week.

VN: Tell us about your roster.

Robbie McEwenCW: We have Trent Lowe, Luke Roberts, Jacek Morajko the Polish elite champion, the German elite champion Christian Knees, Svein Tuft, Robbie Hunter, Ben Day and, of course, Robbie McEwen.

Robbie was a very important signing for us, not just because he’s still a winner – as we saw at the Eneco Tour just a few weeks ago – but because he’s been such a great ambassador for Australian cycling with three Tour de France green jerseys and 200 wins. So not just as a winning rider; as a mentor, road captain and coach, too.

With Svein’s time trialling ability, he’s a rider who can win one week stage races – and Robbie Hunter has demonstrated his abilities as a sprinter who’s also capable of winning one week stage races.

We’ll also have riders from the existing Fly V roster and they’ll be announced next week.

VN: How do you target riders?

CW: Australia has some great GC contenders – Cadel Evans, Michael Rogers and Richie Porte - but the question we have to ask is; ‘how can we be most successful, in terms of generating wins consistently?’

We want to carry forward the momentum we’ve built as a continental team in the USA, where we won a lot of races.

As far as GC goes, we want to build our own contenders from the young talent within the team.

VN: What about a certain Swiss TT rider?

CW: It would be great to have a rider of the calibre of Fabian Cancellara on the team, I’m sure he would be a great asset. You can just imagine the gladiator that Spartacus represents walking out of the Aussie outback and into the cauldron that is the ProTour.

VN: What about soigneurs, mechanics and admin staff?

CW: We have pretty much all of those positions filled, we have our doctor, our secretary - there are just a couple of slots to fill; we’re well advanced in our preparations.

VN: How about frames and group sets; will the frame supplier pay you a ‘dowry?’

CW: We’ll be making announcements on those aspects soon, but I couldn’t comment on any financial arrangement between us and an equipment supplier.

VN: How do you go about putting the team colours and image together?

CW: We’re working with a design agency to ensure we produce a strong identity for the team.
We want a unique identity to connect with Australia; that will run through the kit, bikes, vehicles, leisure clothing and even the team shoes.

VN: What do you expect will be your first race?

CW: The Tour Down Under, of course! It’s the biggest race in Australia and a great way for us to start the team off.

VN: What are your goals for 2011?

CW: The Tour de France is the pinnacle of the sport, to get a start there and to acquit ourselves well would mean ‘mission accomplished’ for us.

If you aim for the stars you can still achieve a great deal even if you don’t get all the way there. We’ll be coming out swinging and hitting the ground running in the Classics and shorter stage races – we want to show what we can do.

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