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As most of you know, back in January during the Tour Down Under Green Edge launched it’s intentions to apply for a UCI World Team license. Unfortunately Pegasus were unsuccessful in attempting the same feat, however I have a pretty good feeling about Green Edge’s chances at being the first Australian professional cycling team.
Last night I gave Shayne Bannan, the General Manager of Green Edge, a phone call at his base in Italy where he’s currently setting up the foundations for a UCI World Team bid and everything else that comes along with running a professional cycling team.
[CT] Shanye, you must be a busy man these days. How’s everything going over there?
[SB] Ah, well…everyone’s busy, aren’t they. It’s certainly exciting times getting stuff up and going and working on the structure. It’s all going pretty well. Sometimes the task seems quite daunting, and other times it runs along quite smoothly.
[CT] How much are you learning through the whole UCI team application process? Is much of it new to you and how much are you familiar with?
[SB] I attended the meeting in Brussels last week where we received the application booklet for this year. I was also hoping to attend the meeting last year but one of my assistants had to attend where he brought back all the information. I’m fairly up to date with the process and we’ve also had a few meetings at the UCI headquarters about our structure and making sure that we’re adhering to the process. It’s all familiar territory, but there’s certainly a lot involved with the budget side of it, the bank guarantee, and the way we structure the various companies that are needed to run the team.
[CT] From my understanding, there are a few requirements that need to be fulfilled with the application process.Can you talk about these requirements and how they’re coming along?
[SB] Yes, there are four criteria. Administration, which means the way you set up the structure of the team and the various companies involved surrounding the team to operate. The other one is Finance, which is pretty critical. That involves the forecasting of the budget, the bank guarantees, the sponsorship contracts. The third criteria is Ethics, which involves your anti-doping program and your ability to work with the UCI and WADA. The fourth one, and probably the most important is the Sporting Criteria. This is the quality of riders we engage which brings points and credibility to the team. The depth and the quality of the riders is possibly the most challenging criteria of all. We’re studying very closely the sporting side of it so when we eventually get the opportunity to talk to riders we have a good strategy in place. If we contract the riders we’re targeting, we’ll have a good chance to get the license.
[CT] How does the new UCI points system that were released to the teams affect your rider strategy?
[SB] We received the documentation a couple months ago regarding the points system and that was confirmed in the meeting last week in Brussels. We’ll base our strategy on the points system and then we’ll work out who’s available to be contracted for 2012. We’ll then look at how we want the team to look in terms of what we want to concentrate on (such as Classics, Grand Tours, smaller races, etc). Certainly we won’t be concentrating on the Grand Tours. I think realistically speaking it will take three or four years of development for a team to be competitive in a Grand Tour. We’re going through the process of what we want the make up of the team to be with being as realistic as possible. That will give us an understanding of what riders we target.
[CT] Everyone is speculating about who could possibly be on the team. You mentioned that the Classics are a realistic goal for the team’s beginnings. I know it’s too soon to name names, but what qualities of riders will you be targeting for the team you’re building?
[SB] I think if you look at results over the past 2-3 years, we’ll be looking at fairly young riders, guys in their mid-20’s that have been consistant and are on an upward curve with the ability to be competitive in races like Amstel, Flanders and Liege. Guys who are there in the top 10-15 consistently and if we can add to the progression of their careers, those are the types of riders we’ll be looking out for.
[CT] Does it concern you at all about riders being apprehensive about signing with Green Edge with the aftermath of Pegasus?
[SB] No question. At the end of the day we can only worry about what we can control though. Our image is very important and we have to do the groundwork. It’s a competitive market and there are some very good teams out there who are applying for a license. We understand we have a lot of work to do to gain credibilty. Not just because of what happened with Pegausus, but it was always going to be the case anyway. Any new team that’s just a “project”, is just that. It’s just a project and we have to work hard on the structure so when it comes time to present the case to the riders we’ll have a really well documented and good proposal to put to them. Not just economically, but the whole picture – that we can really vaule add to their career.
[CT] Are there any key learnings that you took away from the Pegasus debacle that you’re conscious of not repeating?
[SB] I think timing is the critical factor. We’ve given ourselves a fair amount of time to get the processes in place which is prett important. I would say that’s one of the key elements to follow through with a successful project. Although time is reducing quite quickly, but we’ve given ourselves a fair amount of time.
[CT] Can you talk about your financial backing to secure the UCI World Team license in the event that a major sponsor isn’t found? From what I understand, you have someone bankrolling this project for the next 3 years.
[SB] Yes, that’s right Wade. That’s another key point. We have committed funding in place. We’re already spending a large amount of money on capital costs such as busses and trucks and service course, and materials. We’re getting a lot of that out of the way this year. We’ll be talking to potential partners, but we’re not in the sitation that we need these partners to get a kickstart as an organisation. If it happens that we don’t have a naming sponsor for 2012 we’ll delay the discussions and talk about them 2013 and just run 2012 as the Green Edge Cycling Team. We haven’t quite decided on this yet.
[CT] Can you talk about who exactly the financial backer is?
[SB] It’s a group of people, and a couple of those people include Andrew and Gerry Ryan. But yes, it’s a group of people.
[CT] Is there anything you can tell us about the Women’s Team?
[SB] We’re going to go through the process in June where we’ll set aside a few days and work on the structure of the women’s team. We’re committed to having a professional women’s team next year. How it would look and function is to be determined. We’ve done a little bit of work on the structure, but we just need to get the main players together to work out exactly what it’s going to look like. It will be aligned closely with the national program. It’s the utilisation of resources. We want the women’s team to be something special and tha national program has fantastic resources already, so it make sense that we pool the two organisation together to come up with a productive effective women’s team.
[CT] How many riders?
[SB] I think realistically it’ll be between 10-12, and then we’ll contiue with the AIS team as being the feeder team to our women’s team.
[CT] In the event that you aren’t successful in getting a UCI World Tour license, will you be going forward as a pro-continental team?
[SB] Very much so. We’re committed to go for a World Tour license, but if that didn’t eventuate we’re committed to continue as an organisation as a professional continental team.
[CT] How many people will be employed by Green Edge when it’s all up and running?
[SB] I think if you look at the average World Tour team, the amount of riders is about 25-30 and the number of mechanics and staff is also 25-30.
[CT] Tell us about Green Edge’s Tour de France competition?
[SB] It’s just a matter of getting online and entering. It doesn’t cost anything and you could win a Scott bike, some Green Edge cycling clothing, or a trip to the Tour de France. We’ll have our new bus out this year for the first and last week of the Tour. The winner will be able to join us on the bus.
[CT] You mind if I stop by the team bus and kick back?
[SB] You’re coming to the Tour this year? Yeah, you’re more than welcome to come by and I’ll make you a coffee.