Bannan’s departure from Cycling Australia fuels ProTeam project rumour
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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bannan’s departure from Cycling Australia fuels ProTeam project rumour

by Shane Stokes at 7:42 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Will 48 year old head up top team?

Shayne BannanRumours linking Cycling Australia head coach Shayne Bannan to a new setup aspiring ProTeam status are set to grow after the announcement that he has resigned from his position heading the sport's High Performance Programs.

Bannan didn’t indicate the exact reason for his departure but, according to a Cycling Australia press release, he stated that he ‘intends to remain involved with international cycling and will make an announcement in mid January as to the nature of that involvement and his future plans.’

That will fuel suggestions that he will be part of a project which will bid for a ProTeam licence in 2012. Gerry Ryan, the owner of Jayco, is also rumoured to be involved with the plan. He has had a long association with the sport in Australia, backing the Herald Sun Tour, the Classic Bay Series, and the Jayco-Skins talent development team, and is listed as a major partner of Cycling Australia. 

“I have been privileged and fortunate to have worked alongside a group of committed and talented staff and riders over the past 24 years,” said Bannan, confirming his resignation. "During that time there have been many highlights and challenges but the support of Cycling Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport to me personally has been exceptional and I thank both organisations.

“Cycling Australia is approaching an exciting new era starting with the London Olympics and the work of many people over a long period of time has established a solid platform for Australian cycling to continue to grow and I'm honoured to have played a role.”

He later spoke more on his new direction, telling AAP that it was “bloody hard” to resign from the post he occupied since after the Sydney Olympics. However he said that he was sure that it was the right decision.

“There's no way I would step out of my current role if I didn't think it was going to be beneficial for Australian cycling,” he said, hinting that a big project lies ahead. It is thought that he will give a press conference during next month's Santos Tour Down Under.

Long history of coaching:

After an amateur career which included four seasons racing in Italy, Bannan took up roles guiding others in the sport. In 1986 he took a coaching role with the Northern Territory Institute of Sport, then one year later began a decade-long stint as endurance coach with the Australian Institute of Sport and as track endurance coach with Cycling Australia. He also acted as national women’s road coach between 1988 and 1990, then in 1997 switched to working with the men’s road team in the lead up to the Olympic Games.

Following the Sydney Games, he became national performance director for Cycling Australia and head coach with the AIS, and has remained in those positions until now. He has guided with many of Australian cycling’s most successful riders, and worked at six Olympics and five Commonwealth Games.

The 48 year old is regarded as a crucial part of Australian cycling’s success, according to CA’s CEO Graham Fredericks. “Shayne has overseen the unprecedented success of the Cycling Australia/AIS High Performance Program and since taking on the leadership role has implemented a structure and system that is world renowned,” he stated. “His philosophy has been to surround Australia's talented cyclists with experienced, passionate coaches and support staff, provide them with the resources and guidance they need and let them get on with the job.

“He has earned the respect of his peers and the cyclists and staff he has worked with over the years and he is held in the highest regard by the board of Cycling Australia and the Australian sporting industry.”

AIS director Professor Peter Fricker was also glowing in his praise, thus appearing to rule out any possibility that Bannan’s resignation was acrimonious.

“Over two decades Shayne has played a leading role in the training and development of some of Australia's best cyclists through his leadership of the AIS cycling program,” he said. “He is a coach of the highest quality whose commitment, diligence and unwavering pursuit of excellence has made him an icon in the sport of cycling.”

Starting January 1st, two people will together take over the workload that Bannan has dealt with. Kevin Tabotta will move from his current post of national technical director to that of national performance director, and will be responsible for the overall direction and performance of the programmes. In addition to overseeing coaches and support staff, he will be part of the selection panel for all national teams.

The current high performance manager Paul Brosnan will become general manger, and will be responsible for the operation and administration of the program including athlete services, national team management and SIS/SAS and NTID program integration.

Bannan told AAP that he believed they had some good chances as a result. “Paul and Kevin have displayed some fantastic qualities during their time in the high performance program. It's really a great opportunity for those guys to display leadership.”

Did Pegasus Sports have full backing?

The indications that Bannan may be part of a project to set up Australia’s first ProTeam (ProTour team) will – fairly or not – likely lead to questions about the recent application of Pegasus Sports for the same position. The team was turned down for a ProTeam licence due to a lack of enough high-ranking riders, and was then refused a Pro Continental licence when the UCI said there were serious financial shortfalls.

The team did experience difficulties when its chief backer – thought to be the American businessman George Gillet Jr. – walked away from his deal with the squad, but general manger Chris White insisted that enough funding was in place.

In a strongly press release issued on Christmas Eve, White said that the team had fulfilled all of its obligations in relation to the Pro Continental licence application, providing a Letter of Credit to the UCI, and had showed that the budget was half a million dollars in surplus at the time of the resubmitted application.

With the UCI claiming otherwise and its auditors Ernst & Young and the licensing commission yet to reveal the precise decisions why the application was rejected, it is hard to gauge if Pegasus Sports has been treated unreasonably, as White suggests. The net effect though is that several of the team’s top riders including Robbie McEwen, Robbie Hunter and Svein Tuft have all headed elsewhere, making the future difficult for the team and the remaining competitors.

Accurate or not, whispers have been made of late that an alternative project including Bannan would be the preferred option for Cycling Australia and the UCI, in terms of becoming Australia’s first ProTeam. When Pegasus Sports’ application was rejected, there were suggestions from commentators and a couple of riders that politics may have played a part in the team’s difficulties. Journalist Mike Tomalaris said as much on his Twitter account: “Dirty politics involved in Pegasus collapse. Those involved should be ashamed at a time when Oz cycling should be united.”

Cycling Australia’s position has been difficult to ascertain because of two different positions expressed of late. Its president Klaus Mueller expressed reservations on December 16th. “One of the unfortunate things, I think, about Pegasus is that they have not fully involved Cycling Australia in the whole process,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. “'They haven't engaged, they haven't approached Cycling Australia, they haven't kept us informed of what they're doing.”

He also said that Cycling Australia would assist any rider either aggrieved or considering legal action over the Pegasus situation. “If it fails - and we desperately hope it doesn't - and we get any complaints about any form of misconduct then we'll fully investigate it.”

This contrasted notably from a statement released by the governing body one week later, which appeared more supportive of the team. “Cycling Australia is disappointed Pegasus Racing has been unable to secure a Pro Continental licence. We don't know the reasons why as we have no additional information to that contained in the UCI's media release,” it said.

“We provided a written endorsement of the initial bid for a ProTour licence to the UCI and more recently provided a further endorsement of the Pegasus Racing bid for ProContinental status. We supplied those endorsements based on our experience with Chris White and his successful operation of the Fly V Australia and Virgin Blue - RBS Morgans teams.”

The uncertainty surrounding Pegasus Sports is something which could be clarified once the UCI and auditors Ernst & Young communicate precisely why the team was rejected, and how this settles with White’s stated version of events.


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